SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Nearly 11 months after a high-speed crash killed two people, a man from Springfield is charged for their deaths. Greene County prosecutors charged Sean Masten, 24, on Wednesday with two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. Investigators believe Masten was high on methamphetamine at the time.
The crash was on Sunday morning, Feb. 19, 2012, at the intersection of West Elm Street at South Scenic Avenue. Kathy Newman, 60, died at the scene after a pickup sped through a stop sign and hit her SUV in the driver’s door.
Joshua Sportsman, 24, was thrown from the truck and died at the scene. Police at the scene couldn't tell if Sportsman was the driver.
A witness to the crash told police that a heavyset man got out of the driver’s side of the pickup, walked around, and left the scene in another pickup. Police later arrested Masten after he went to a hospital to get treated for injuries, including a broken arm.
Masten told police at first that he was injured in a motorcycle wreck on his property near Fair Grove. An investigator says in the probable cause statement that Masten later admitted he was involved in the crash on Elm at Scenic but said Sportsman was driving. Until now, police never said publicly that they’d concluded that Masten was the driver.
It took 11 months to charge Masten because it took a crime lab this long to analyze Masten’s blood to determine that he was under the influence of meth. Technicians at the hospital drew blood from Masten for the analysis. Prosecutors say they charged Masten within a week of getting the lab test results.
One reason that police believe Masten was driving is his size. Masten is about 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds. Sportsman was 5-foot-5 and 118 pounds.
Another reason is the driver’s side of the pickup had less damage than the passenger side, and police believe Masten’s injuries match the damage on the driver’s side, and Sportsman’s injuries match the damage on the passenger side, according to the probable cause statement.
“During an interview with Masten, he admitted to wearing a pair of gray/red Nike shoes,” the detective also wrote. “One of the shoes was recovered from the Chevrolet pickup while it was in police custody. The tread pattern on the shoe matched an imprint that had been located on the brake pedal pad of the pickup. While at the scene I observed pre-impact braking skids that made it evident the driver hit the brake pedal.”
The probable cause statement doesn’t say if police know who was driving the other pickup in which Masten left the scene of the accident. Based on the witness’ statement, police last year had some suspicion that two pickups were racing before the crash, but the probable cause statement doesn’t say if they confirmed that.
Masten was charged in 2008 with possession of a controlled substance. He was later convicted and placed on probation, although prosecutors say he violated conditions of his probation by not showing up for court hearings and substance abuse treatment sessions.
In 2011, Masten was charged with possession of marijuana. His probation on the previous meth conviction was revoked after the crash. Last March, he received a four-year prison sentence for the marijuana charge.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged Masten with two alternative counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter that don’t mention being under the influence of meth. Alternative counts are filed when it’s possible that evidence supporting the first charge will be discounted by a judge or jury, who would then be able to select the alternative charge.
A conviction for first-degree involuntary manslaughter under the influence of meth carries a prison sentence of five to 15 years. A conviction for first-degree involuntary manslaughter not under the influence of meth carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.
Masten is also charged with leaving the scene of an accident. A conviction on that charge could result in a prison sentence up to four years.
A Greene County judge set Masten’s bond at $75,000. Online records of the Missouri Department of Corrections show he’s being held at the state’s Cremer Therapeutic Community Center in Fulton.