The trial of a Leonard man accused of killing his 7-year-old son in a 2017 car wreck began in Sherman on Tuesday, with testimony from multiple witnesses.
Kristoffer Thomas Craft, 36, pleaded not guilty to the felony murder charge against him before Judge Jim Fallon in the 15th District Court. The charge stems from the April 7, 2017, wreck in which Craft drove his pickup west down FM 814 in Whitewright, while drunk, traveled through the intersection with State Highway 160 at high speed, left the roadway and struck a house. His son, Kolton Craft, who rode unrestrained in the passenger seat, was killed in the collision.
“Our job is to involve you in this case,” Interim Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith told jurors as he opened with a brief summary of the evidence they would see and witnesses who would testify.
The most heated exchange of the day occurred between Craft’s defense attorney Pete Schulte and Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Tarif Alkhatib, a witness for the prosecution. The tense back and forth centered on a major question jurors will have to decide — whether or not Craft operated the vehicle in a manner that he knew was dangerous. Alkhatib testified that a black box data recorder recovered from Craft’s vehicle showed he was driving at 60 miles per hour when the crash occurred and that a lack of skid marks on the road indicated Craft took no evasive action to avoid the wreck.
While the trooper described Craft’s operation of the vehicle as “dangerous,” Schulte contended that Craft’s actions would have to be considered “clearly dangerous” in order for his client to be convicted on the felony murder charge. That, he said, means his client had to know that what he did could have resulted in another person’s death.
In recorded conversations with law enforcement officers, Craft said he was traveling to a friend’s home to help move the friend’s trailer. Craft told officers that he had received a phone call while he was driving and that he failed to stop his vehicle at the intersection because he was distracted by the call. Schulte did not deny that his client was intoxicated at the time of the crash, but said Craft’s decision-making abilities were impaired by the alcohol he consumed and, therefore, he could not have fully understood the risk he was taking.
Body camera footage obtained from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Mike Hummert, who administered a partial field sobriety test to Craft, showed him fail two separate tests, and Craft admitted that he had consumed at least three beers in the hours proceeding the wreck. Two blood samples taken after the wreck showed Craft had a blood alcohol concentration between .137 and .145, nearly twice the legal limit of .08. Alkhatib said he found at least one beer bottle and a pack of mostly empty cans in the vehicle, the latter of which he said still had some liquid inside.
The jury of five women and seven men also heard emotional testimony from former Whitewright Police Officer Mark Munt, who responded to the scene and assisted EMTs as they worked on the boy. Munt’s body camera footage of the incident was played before the court and included images of Kolton Craft’s face covered in blood. The footage showed Munt holding the unresponsive boy’s hand as he encouraged him to breath.
“Come on little guy,” Munt said repeatedly on the tape. “Come on buddy, open your mouth.”
Kolton Craft was transported by ambulance to Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center following the wreck. Chief of Surgery Cody Starnes testified at Tuesday’s proceedings and said the boy showed no signs of life throughout the 20 to 25 minute ride to the hospital. Despite their best efforts, Starnes said medical personnel could not restart the boy’s heart and could not overcome his extensive injuries which Starnes described as “incompatible with life.”
“That kid had no shot,” Starnes said.
Kolton Craft was pronounced dead at the hospital. A medical examiner’s report listed blunt force trauma as the cause of death.
Prosecutors are proceeding with the murder charge, but have not agreed to dismiss with prejudice five additional charges against Craft including manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, injury to a child, driving while intoxicated with a child present and Aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury to a family member. Fallon could dismiss the additional charges against Craft, but had not done so as of Tuesday.
The trial is set to resume on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Grayson County Justice Center.