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Motorcyclist's widow files wrongful death lawsuit

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
October 4, 2003
The widow of a motorcyclist who died in a May 10 collision with a patrol car driven by a sheriff's deputy has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
Zachary Thomas Childress, 27, was one of a group of people riding their motorcycles east on Centerhill-Martin Road, and on a bridge over the north end of Okatibbee Lake known as The Causeway.
Deputy Paul Early was driving his patrol car west on the same road. The two vehicles collided and Childress was pronounced dead at the scene.
In her lawsuit,which represents one side of a legal argument, Casey Childress claims that Early turned into her husband's lane of traffic, showing a "reckless disregard" for his safety and well-being.
At that point in the road, Childress asserts, a double solid yellow line marks a no-passing zone and vehicles are also prohibited from making U-turns.
The lawsuit seeks damages against Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department and Early.
Casey Childress has asked for compensatory damages equal to the amount her late husband would have earned during his lifetime. And, she asks to be compensated for the loss of his companionship and her physical and mental pain and suffering.
She also seeks unspecific punitive damages "in an amount that will punish them for their wrongful conduct and deter such conduct in the future."
Sollie has declined to comment about Early's destination at the time of the accident, or what caused his patrol car to enter the eastbound lane.
Early returned to duty about a week after the collision.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol is in charge of the official investigation, but has not yet released its findings. Sollie said representatives of the county's insurance carrier are conducting an independent investigation.