Woman dies from crash injuries

Criminal charges weighed for driver who flipped Greenfield resident’s car

GREENFIELD — A Greenfield woman has died from the injuries she sustained after the car she was riding in ran off the road, flipped and crashed into a house earlier this month.

Police say Dalene Charron’s death could result in criminal charges for the driver, Jason Phelps, 41, of Greenfield, if investigators are correct in their belief he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Toxicology reports are pending.

The accident happened just before 11:30 p.m. March 4. Charron, 45, a Hancock County native, was the the front-seat passenger in a car police say missed a curve in the 600 block of State Street in Greenfield and collided with a nearby home.

Investigators believe Phelps was speeding at the time and lost control of his vehicle, which rolled several times and came to rest on its roof, with its front end stuck inside the home.

Charron and Phelps were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, officials said.

Charron suffered serious head injuries. She was airlifted on the night of the crash to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. She died there Saturday, police said.

Phelps suffered a broken arm, was treated at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital and released. He is expected to make a full recovery, officials said.

A man and two children were inside the home at the time of the accident, but they were not injured, officials said.

Police immediately suspected alcohol was a factor in the crash, they said.

First-responders reported they could smell alcohol coming from the damaged vehicle, and they later found empty bottles inside the car; Phelps and Charron were on their way home from a bar when they crashed, officials said.

Charron was unconscious; but Phelps appeared to be intoxicated at the scene of the crash, police said. Officers observed Phelps had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech; they took blood samples from him that were sent to the state’s forensic toxicology lab for analysis.

There, the samples fall into a queue of hundreds of others from police investigations across the state, Greenfield Police Maj. Derek Towle said. Experts test the blood to determine what substances, if any, are present; the results are typically sent back to officers within about six weeks.

There is a range of criminal charges police can ask prosecutors to consider filing depending on the results, Towle said; they include felony charges of operating while intoxicated causing death — a charge Phelps has pleaded guilty to once before, records show.

Phelps was the driver in a 2007 accident in Greenfield that killed a 75-year-old woman.

Phelps had cocaine and marijuana in his system when he accidentally backed his truck over Inell Carter in the parking lot of Big Lots in Greenfield.

He pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resulting in the death of a person — a Class B felony — and was sent to prison. He was released from prison in 2015, records show.

Should official blood tests show Phelps was intoxicated when he crashed his car earlier this month, his charges and sentence, if convicted, could be enhanced because of his criminal history, Towle said.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.