LIVINGSTON – A Denham Springs woman turned herself in after a warrant was issued for her arrest in an Interstate 12 crash that led to the death of a 5-month-old baby.
Jessica Cowart, 23, accompanied by her attorney, surrendered Thursday to Denham Springs police officers at the Livingston Parish Detention Center when she learned the warrant had been issued.
She was booked on negligent homicide, negligent injuring and reckless operation, according to Lori Steele, Sheriff’s Office spokesman. Bond was set at $51,000.
Five-month-old Reese Graham suffered life-threatening injuries on Oct. 11 in the crash. She died two days later.
According to the affidavit from Denham Springs police, a three-vehicle accident occurred on Oct. 11 on Interstate 12 eastbound at mile marker 9 inside the Denham Springs city limits.
Cowart, driving a 2015 GMC Sierra, ran into the back of a 2006 Hyundai Tuscan driven by Reese’s mother, Gabrielle Madere.
The baby was properly secured in the rear compartment of the Hyundai at the time of accident, but the safety seat detached from its base due to the impact, propelling the car seat into the front windshield, the affidavit said.
Reese sustained life-threatening injuries and was transported to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where she died of her injuries.
According to the affidavit, witnesses said Cowart was observed traveling at a high rate of speed, weaving in and out of traffic, using her mobile phone while operating the vehicle.
A search warrant was issued for Cowart’s cell phone records and it indicated she was involved in a text message exchange between 6:01:22 p.m. and 6:05:05 p.m., the affidavit said.
The affidavit said the accident occurred at 6:05 p.m.
Cowart’s last message sent was at 6:03:38, it said.
A review of the crash data from the “black box” on Cowart’s truck showed she was traveling 75 mph, 10 mph over the posted speed limit of 65 mph, the affidavit said.
“Pre-crash data of the vehicle indicates that Jessica did not apply the vehicles braking system until 0.5 seconds before she made impact with the Hyundai,” the affidavit said.
The impact caused the Hyundai to hit a 2005 Saturn Ion, driven by Michael Messina.
Madere was injured and taken to the hospital. Messina said he did not need medical attention.