Jurors in the 59th state District Court sentenced Tripp Bird on Friday to seven years in prison on an aggravated assault charge and 10 years probation on failure to stop and render aid at accident involving injury.
That same jury found Bird guilty of those charges Thursday in the road rage incident that ended in a two-car wreck on FM 691 back in July of 2016.
Jennifer Russell, a passenger in one of the cars in the wreck, suffered serious injuries and eventually went through more than 20 operations. Her right leg was so badly damaged that it had to be removed, and Russell died last December.
Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith said the sentences will run concurrently.
Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Don Hoover said he was not surprised at the jury’s verdict in the sentencing portion of the trial.
Hoover said Bird really had no criminal history and he is a young man. On the other hand, Hoover said the victim suffered horrifically. She also had two children who no longer have a mother and a mother who no longer has a daughter. Hoover said the coroner ruled that Russell died from complications from her injuries in the wreck. The Grayson County District Attorney’s Office will dismiss the other charges that Bird faced in the case including murder and manslaughter.
The case started, testimony in court this week revealed, when Russell and McGee were headed to a job interview that Russell had at IHOP in Sherman. They were coming from Russell’s apartment at Perrin Field and took 691 to Loy Lake Road. On Loy Lake, McGee said, he was cut off by the Tiburon, and the car then “brake checked him a number of times as they made their way from Sara Swamy Drive to the bridge over U.S. Highway 82. At that point, McGee said, he got out of his car, walked over to the Tiburon and spit at the driver who turned out to be Bird. McGee said Bird then got out of his car, walked over to the car McGee was now back in and started punching at McGee. When the light turned green, McGee said, he drove off leaving Bird behind.
Other witnesses in the trial testified that Bird then went to his nearby apartment and told his roommates what had happened. One of those roommates, Joshua Haliburton, suggested that they go out and find McGee.
And, they did.
McGee was driving Russell home after she found out she got the job at IHOP. They were just around Sherman’s Town Center when Bird noticed McGee’s car. Testimony revealed he called Haliburton and they both followed McGee’s car. When they got to the stop sign at FM 691, testimony revealed, Haliburton jumped out of his truck and started yelling in the passenger’s side of the car. McGee said he also saw Bird start to get out of his car, though others testified that they didn’t’ see that.
McGee testified that he was afraid at that point and took off quickly. Bird testified that he also took off quickly behind McGee. This is the point where the testimonies start to differ. McGee said Bird eventually got in front of him and stomped his brakes forcing McGee to try to go around him and end up in the wreck. Bird said he did not stop his brakes, and that the wreck happened as McGee was trying to pass illegally in a no passing zone.
McGee was ticketed for driving with a suspended license, driving at an unsafe speed, and passing in a no passing zone.
Smith said jurors said the case was a very emotional one for them. Smith praised Hoover and D.A.’s investigator Dennis Michael for their work on the case. Smith said his office “has been working hard to bring justice for Jennifer.”
Haliburton is set to go to trial on similar charges in the case in January.
Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor for the Herald Democrat. She can be reached at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com.