Jessie Mae Windham pleads guilty Thursday morning in the Circuit Courtroom to DUI-death of another from a case that started in September of 2015.
Windham was driving a 2004 white Pontiac Grand Prix with three passengers in the car when the car flipped down an embankment on Interstate 59 south of the Chantilly exit, landing in the brush. One of the passengers, Eugene Collins, was thrown from the vehicle that landed on top of him. Collins was pronounced dead at the scene.
The other two passengers in the vehicle were taken to local hospitals but were treated and released. It was noted Thursday that Windham refused to take a DUI test, but blood samples were drawn, revealing a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.
Windham was indicted on the DUI-death of another charge by a grand jury, but the initial indictment was dismissed due to her last name being represented as "Williams" to the jurors in 2015. The District Attorney's Office then re-indicted her. The second indictment was handed down on July 22, 2016, but Windham was not served the second indictment until May 20, 2019. Attorney Jeannene Pacific argued that Windham did not promptly receive the indictment, even though she lives just minutes from the Jones County Sheriff's Department and often, according to testimony from her daughters, sits on the front porch of her house.
Windham was faced with a maximum of 25 years in a correctional facility if the case went to trial with a minimum of five years.
However, the state recommended a sentence of 12 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with seven years to serve in full-time custody and the remaining time of three years in post-release supervision and community service. Windham had been in the Jones County Jail 114 days and is entitled credit for that. She was also sentenced to pay court costs, and restitution is due to the victim's daughter for burial.
"This is a tragic thing," said Circuit Court Judge Dal Williamson to Windham. "Driving under the influence is no kind of defense. When you decide to drive, when anyone does, you are responsible for what happens under the influence. In this case, a man lost his life. That was a direct result of you deciding to drive while you were almost two-timing the legal limit of alcohol. I hope that when you finish this bit of time, you will be a different person in the future and make good decisions. You're a person who does not need to consume alcohol."