Created on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 Written by JOEL E. MAST
A 49-year-old Kentucky woman with a history of alcohol and drug abuse has been charged in the death of Austin Houser.
Investigators report Cathy Humphries was drunk and was under the influence of marijuana when the pickup truck she was driving struck the 15-year-old Rushsylvania boy as he walked in a ditch along State Route 274 on Oct. 25.
Ms. Humphries, who was taken Tuesday to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office by her former husband, was indicted by a Logan County grand jury for two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs; aggravated vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony; aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony; and failure to stop after a crash, a third-degree felony.
Sheriff’s investigators and the prosecutor’s office report laboratory tests came back last week positively linking the pickup to crash debris found around Austin’s body.
Other test results show the suspect had blood alcohol level of 0.278 percent, more than three times the legal limit, and that she had recently used marijuana.
Sheriff’s Detective Phil Bailey said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation put a priority on the testing because of Austin’s age.
The expedited effort sped up the progress of the investigation, he said, leading to an indictment within two months of Austin’s death.
Austin’s body was found Oct. 27 by residents in the area, about a day after he was reported missing by his mother, Ellenna Houser.
Deputies soon determined the teenager was struck by motor vehicle which left the scene.
Logan County Coroner Dr. Michael Failor has reported it appears Austin died instantly after impacting with the vehicle.
Upon learning of Austin’s death, investigators turned their focus on Ms. Humphries, whom they encountered on Oct. 25.
Just before 5:30 p.m., deputies were called to a residence about 1.4 miles east of the crash scene where the suspect was staying.
The Logan County Sheriff's Office released a photograph of the Ford Ranger pickup truck Cathy Humphries was driving on Oct. 25. She has been charged in the fatal crash that killed 15-year-old Austin Houser as he was walking along State Route 274, north of Rushsylvania.
The suspect’s daughter reported her mother had just wrecked a pickup truck and was threatening to kill herself with a shotgun.
Deputies arrived and found her unconscious on the floor of a bedroom. She spent the next three weeks — some of the time in a coma — at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
Investigators have yet to receive medical records from the hospital and they do not know why she lost consciousness.
While at the residence, deputies noted minor damage to the pickup but nothing to indicate it had hit a person. A check of the nearby area to locate a crash scene did not extend as far as Austin’s location.
Two days later, deputies seized the pickup as evidence.
As for Austin, he regularly walked from his 2690 Township Road 40 home to get to Rushsylvania or to football practice at Benjamin Logan High School.
It was not uncommon for him to spend nights with friends or family in the area.
Ms. Houser, who worked at the time from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., was not worried until she talked with school officials and learned Austin was not in class on Oct. 26.