An Arizona man who accidentally ran over his toddler son last week faces a charge of negligent homicide in the boy’s death, and prison records show that it isn’t the first time he’s been charged with killing or injuring someone in a drunken driving collision.
Richard Louis Hamilton, 49, of Phoenix, was moving his truck Thursday evening in the yard of his family's home when he felt a bump under the tire, according to the Arizona Republic. He stopped the truck and discovered that he had struck his son, Samuel.
Samuel was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a couple of hours later, the Republic reported.
Hamilton was granted $50,000 bail on the felony charge at an initial court appearance on Friday, but is being held in the Maricopa County Jail on a probation violation. The violation stems from a conviction in a January 2007 hit-and-run crash in which a 5-year-old girl was seriously injured.
He was released from prison in November 2013 after serving more than six years in that case, according to Arizona Department of Corrections records.
Hamilton's wife, identified on a GoFundMe page set up for the family as Chelsea Hamilton, pleaded for his release Friday as he stood before a judge and appeared to weep.
“I wish that he would be released so we could mourn the death of our son together,” Chelsea Hamilton said. “This was a total accident.”
The family’s fundraising page, which sought help with paying for Samuel’s funeral, described the toddler as a “beautiful, vibrant, happy” child.
"In his short little life, he impacted the lives of all that knew him and loved him," the page read.
Richard Hamilton told officers who responded to the family’s home Thursday evening that he did not realize his son, who was playing in the yard before the accident, had gotten so close to the vehicle he was moving.
A neighbor told police he had seen Hamilton and his son playing together in the yard before the collision. A probable cause statement obtained by KTVK in Phoenix stated that the neighbor also saw Hamilton behind the wheel of the truck when Samuel was struck.
Hamilton admitted to investigators that he had been driving the truck, but denied that he had been drinking prior to the incident. He claimed he had not had a drink since the night before, when he drank a half pint of vodka, the court document said.
He refused both a field sobriety test and a blood test, but officers obtained his blood after securing a search warrant.
"The defendant had bloodshot, watery eyes and a moderate odor of alcohol coming from him," the probable cause statement said.
Investigators also found a broken beer bottle a few feet away from the back of the truck, in the path that the truck would have taken when Hamilton moved it.
"There was a liquid on the driver side rear tire that is believed to be some of the contents of the beer bottle," the statement said. "Glass fragments from the beer bottle were located in the grass near the bottle, and there were also fragments located in a trash can approximately 30 feet from the area of the collision.
“It appeared someone tried to clean up the broken beer bottle fragments afterward.”
See Hamilton’s first court appearance below.
Hamilton was processed for driving under the influence and booked into the Maricopa County Jail, where he remained Monday for the alleged probation violation in the 2006 case.
According to a Republic story written at the time of his sentencing in the previous case, Hamilton’s 5-year-old victim was crossing a street with her mother and two siblings when Hamilton struck her with his minivan. He fled the scene, but turned himself in to police later that day.
Hamilton also served a four-month prison sentence in 2001 following his first conviction for aggravated DUI, prison records show. Details of that incident were not immediately available.
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