Wrong-way fatality motorist was repeat DWI offender, police say
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 9:17 am
George Harry Widener
SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (June 9, 2009) — The man who police say killed Coach Don Nelson in a Thursday night wrong-way crash was driving drunk at nearly three times the legal alcohol limit and also had three previous drunk driving convictions, according to documents filed Monday in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
George H. Widener, 64, of Jerome, faces a charge of first-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection with Nelson’s June 4 death. According to the results of a blood alcohol test, Widener had a blood alcohol content of 0.214 percent; Missouri’s legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.
The charge faced by Widener is a Class B felony which carries a penalty of 5 to 15 years in prison. His blood alcohol level would only have had to be 0.18 percent to qualify for the charge.
Widener’s bond has been set at $250,000 cash-only and he remains in the Pulaski County Jail.
The police report filed by Sgt. Butch Hohman, traffic sergeant for the St. Robert Police Department, indicated that Widener had been driving a 2006 Chevrolet Avalanche eastbound in the westbound lane of Old Route 66 at 10:05 p.m. Thursday when he rounded a curve and met a 2009 Harley Davidson motorcycle ridden by Nelson which was rounding the same curve in the passing lane. The two vehicles hit head-on.
Hohman arrested Widener at the crash scene after “smelling the odor of intoxicants coming from his breath,” according to his report.
Widener has previous alcohol-related driving offenses in 1983, 1993, and 1999, according to Hohman’s report.
Prosecutors filed charges shortly before the funeral for Nelson, who was a longtime Waynesville High School coach and radio announcer. According to obituary information provided by Waynesville Memorial Chapel, the funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at the Parker Fine Arts Building of Waynesville Middle School, with burial following at Waynesville Memorial Park Cemetery.
Visitation will be 4 p.m. Tuesday with Masonic rites by Richland Masonic Lodge No. 385 at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.
According to obituary information, survivors include Nelson’s parents, Faye Howard and Leon Nelson, both of Waynesville; his children, Kenneth Nelson of Waynesville and Stacey Cruz and her husband, Sgt. Amos Cruz of San Clemente, Calif.; four siblings, Gene Nelson and his wife Mary of Kansas City, Kan., Cheryl Nelson and Tom Brougham of Kansas City, Kan., Jerry Nelson and his wife Barbara of Waynesville, and Yvonna Bays and her husband Dennis of Waynesville; one grandson, Jaden Cruz; six nephews and four nieces; as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and special friends Marv and Terri Leuten of Laquey.
A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Nelson’s name; donations may be left at the funeral home or with a family member.