Charges filed against driver

Suspect had history of OWI leading to death

GREENFIELD — For the second time in a decade, law enforcement officers are accusing the same Greenfield man of taking someone’s life while driving under the influence.

Jason Phelps, 42, 640 S. State St., Greenfield, had a blood-alcohol content that was nearly three times the legal driving limit when he drove a car into a Greenfield home earlier this month. The front-seat passenger, Dalene Charron, 45, of Greenfield, later died from her injuries, investigators said.

With official toxicology results in hand, prosecutors filed a single count of causing death while operating a vehicle while intoxicated — a Level 4 felony — against Phelps on Friday in Hancock County Superior Court 1, records show. A warrant for his arrest was issued but had not been served at press time.

This is the second time Phelps has faced such a criminal charge.

He served time in prison after pleading guilty to the same allegation in 2007, admitting he used cocaine and marijuana before he accidentally backed his truck over 75-year-old Inell Carter in a parking lot in Greenfield, causing fatal injuries.

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

In the most recent incident, police said Phelps was driving southbound on State Road 9 through Greenfield on March 4 just before 11:30 p.m. when he sped through a curve in the roadway and lost control of his vehicle.

The car rolled several times and hit a home in the 600 block of South State Street. The car came to rest on its roof, with its front end stuck inside the home. A man and two children were inside the home at the time of the accident, but they were not injured, police said.

Charron, Phelps’ girlfriend, suffered serious injuries and died last week at an Indianapolis hospital, officials said.

Because of his prior criminal history, prosecutors say they’ll seek a stricter sentence if Phelps is eventually found guilty in the new criminal case. Along with the charging documents, prosecutors filed a notice seeking a habitual offender enhancement, records show.

Phelps told police at the scene he might not have been the driver during the wreck, according to court documents. He told police he couldn’t remember who was behind the wheel when the car the flipped because he and Charron had taken turns driving several times during their 14-mile trip home from a bar in Knightstown, court documents said.

Charron started off in the driver’s seat, but she felt too drunk to continue, Phelps told police, according to court documents. She pulled over somewhere along their route, and he took over the wheel, the report said.

They traded spots like that several times during the drive, Phelps told police. They’d switched places too many times for him to know exactly who was driving when the accident occurred, he told police.

According to court records, Phelps had a blood-alcohol content of 0.233 percent at the time of the accident — nearly three times the legal driving limit of 0.08.

At the scene, Phelps was visibly intoxicated, police said. He slurred his words as he spoke, struggled to keep his balance and was uncooperative when investigators tried to speak with him, court records state.

A woman who drove by the wreck minutes after it happened told officers she watched Phelps stumble out of the driver’s seat. The woman told police Phelps climbed out of the car, “attempted to walk and fell on his face,” according to court records.

A paramedic who responded to the scene told police he needed to cut Charron out of the passenger side in order to properly treat her injuries, according to court documents. She’d suffered, among other injuries, a broken neck and fractured skull, which caused bleeding in her brain, according to court records.

Charron was driven by ambulance to Hancock Regional Hospital then airlifted to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. She died there on March 11, officials said.

Phelps suffered a broken arm, was treated at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital and released, officials said.

The Level 4 felony count Phelps faces carries a potential penalty of 12 years in prison. If he is found guilty of being a habitual offender, his potential sentence could increase to 32 years, officials 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.