GREENFIELD – The trial of a church bus driver investigators say was high on cocaine when he caused an accident that killed a 6-year-old boy is expected to begin Monday, a month shy of the one-year anniversary of the crash.
Charles Goodman, 54, of Gary, also had a suspended license when the bus he was driving flipped near the 107-mile marker on eastbound Interstate 70 in late July, police said.
Eleven people traveling on the bus bound for a church conference in Ohio, including Goodman, were injured; one passenger, 6-year-old Jacob Williams, died at the scene.
Goodman faces a Level 4 felony charge of causing death while intoxicated, in addition to a Level 5 felony charge of reckless homicide and a Class A misdemeanor of driving with a suspended license.
Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said he expects the trial, which begins with jury selection at 8 a.m. in Superior Court 1, to last no more than three days. Prosecutors have been unable to reach a plea agreement with Goodman, Eaton added.
Three attorneys have represented Goodman since his arrest, each taking on the case after Goodman fired the previous lawyer, court records show. Staff members at the Hancock County Jail, where Goodman is being held as he awaits trial, said he has refused multiple visits from his current attorney, Bonnie Wooten of Greenfield.
This week during a hearing Goodman requested to represent himself, a motion that was denied after discussions in court, records show. Wooten will represent Goodman during trial next week, a judge ordered.
Witnesses said the church bus Goodman was driving July 28 suddenly swerved off the interstate, slamming into a tree and throwing several passengers, including Goodman, from the bus before catching fire.
The 6-year-old, who was traveling on the bus with his family, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Inspections of the vehicle after the crash revealed no mechanical failures, court documents state.
The bus carried a dozen members of the St. Jude Family Deliverance Worship Center, who were traveling from northwest Indiana to Dayton, Ohio, for a church conference.
Goodman, who has a history of driving violations, was wanted at the time of the crash on a warrant from Lake County after he failed to appear in court for a traffic offense, police said.
A passenger seated behind Goodman on the bus told investigators “something was off” with the driver’s behavior from the start of the trip; he appeared unfocused and was struggling to steer the bus just before the crash, court documents state.
Goodman, who has remained in the Hancock County Jail on a $20,000 bond since the crash, continually stirs up trouble inside the facility, said Deputy Jail Commander Lt. Keith Oliver.
He faces three additional criminal charges for destroying county property inside the jail, including a communal television and visitation kiosk, which has led jail staff to isolate Goodman in a single cell 23 hours a day, Oliver said.
“You name it, he’s broken it,” Oliver said.
The inmate’s unruly behavior led Jail Commander Andy Craig to submit a formal request to transfer Goodman to a state prison last week, court records state.
The Level 4 felony Goodman faces carries a penalty of between two and 12 years and up to $10,000 in fines. Reckless homicide carries up to a six-year sentence and $10,000 in fines, and driving while suspended could result in up to one year behind bars and $5,000 in fines.
Charles Goodman, who faces two felony charges in the death of a 6-year-old boy, is expected to go to trial at 8 a.m. Monday morning in Hancock County Superior Court 1, on the third floor of the county courthouse, 9 E. Main St. in Greenfield. Proceedings are open to the public.