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Texas Judge Orders Man To Place Flowers on Grave of Crash Victim

May 17, 1991

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) _ A man who caused another man’s death in a car crash was ordered to lay flowers on the victim’s grave as part of his sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

James Richard Van Dyke, 37, pleaded guilty in the August 1989 death of Paul Ervin Mitchell. District Judge Leonard Giblin added the graveside flowers provision Wednesday to terms of Van Dyke’s eight-year probation.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Hoffer said the order requiring Van Dyke to lay flowers on Mitchell’s grave on the anniversary of his death was a ″nice touch.″

Mitchell, 54, was struck by a Van Dyke’s vehicle while standing outside his pickup truck on the shoulder of Interstate 10 in Beaumont. The impact knocked Mitchell’s truck across westbound lanes, the center median and into the eastbound lanes.

Ruth Elizabeth Mitchell, the victim’s wife, was in the cab of the truck at the time. She spent three weeks in intensive care and must undergo two more operations.

Mrs. Mitchell said of the judge’s floral order: ″It really pleased me.″

Blood tests indicated Van Dyke wasn’t intoxicated at the time of the accident.

A plea bargain agreement let him avoid prison time. The judge also ordered him to help the victim’s widow pay $37,000 in medical bills.

Defense lawyer Doug Barlow said Van Dyke ″has accepted responsibility for being involved in the collision and is willing to pay damages.″

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