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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Birch Tree teens face manslaughter charges

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Two Birch Tree teens, accused of causing the death of a Thayer teen in March 2010 by playing "crisscross chicken" before a head-on crash on Highway 160. were arraigned Dec. 28 in Oregon County Circuit Court.

"Chicken" is defined as a game in which two motorists drive toward each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash. But, if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a "chicken," meaning a coward.

The defendants, Eli Dakota Dotson and William C. Heilman, both 19, appeared with their attorneys, Jacob Garrett and Travis Holthouse, before Judge Don Henry. The case is being prosecuted by Oregon County Prosecutor Fred O'Neill.

About 30 family members and others attended the arraignment, which lasted less than 10 minutes, as the defense waived formal reading of the charges. Both defendants said they understood the charges and penalties, which could be as much as four years in prison.

Heilman and Dotson, were 17 at the time of the crash which occurred two miles west of Alton. They are charged with involuntary manslaughter, a Class D felony, for the death of Meghan Honeycutt, 16, a Thayer High School student, on March 5, 2010.

Reports indicate Heilman and Dotson drove toward each other on Highway 160, hitting head-on, with both vehicles across the center line. Honeycutt and her twin sister, Morgan Honeycutt, of Thayer, were passengers in Heilman's Toyota Celica. Dotson was alone in an Oldsmobile Alero.

Meghan Honeycutt was in the front passenger seat of the Toyota and not wearing a seat belt, according to the probable cause statement filed in the case. She was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene by Oregon County coroner Tom Clary.

Morgan Honeycutt, Heilman and Dotson were injured in the 10 p.m. crash.

A preliminary breath test of Dotson's breath showed no alcohol consumption.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol initial report indicated Meghan Honeycutt was the driver of the Toyota, which was later disproved by a Quick Connection gas station surveillance tape, according to reports.

The tape shows Heilman getting out of Dotson's Oldsmobile and into the Toyota driver seat a few minutes before the crash, reports state.

O'Neill said Heilman and Dotson face identical charges as a crash reconstruction report indicates both vehicles were across the middle of the road when they hit one another.

According to reports, Heilman and Dotson both said they would not have played crisscross chicken as it is a dangerous game.

A preliminary hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17 in Alton.

The maximum sentence for a class D felony may involve a fine of up to $5,000 and up to four years in prison.

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