Mitchell Dion Morgan, 58, formerly of Snellville, was found guilty Friday by a Whitfield County jury for the offenses of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
Superior Court Senior Judge Jack Partain had Morgan taken into custody and set sentencing for Feb. 17. At that time, Morgan faces up to 10 years in prison on the homicide count and up to 12 months each on the other charges.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a death is caused by another person’s unlawful act (in this case the charge of reckless conduct) without there having been any intention to kill. Reckless conduct exists when a person causes harm or risk of harm by disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his actions or omissions to act will cause such harm.
Partain presided over the trial with evidence beginning Wednesday after lunch and concluding late Thursday afternoon. Micah Gates and Latasha Heflin of the Public Defender’s Office represented Morgan. The state’s case was presented by Assistant District Attorney Geoff Bard.
The trial centered on two traffic collisions that occurred on Interstate 75 in the early morning hours of June 26, 2020. Morgan, who worked for ServPro out of Stone Mountain, was driving his ServPro van up the interstate at around 4 a.m. at a high rate of speed and with his headlights off. While driving erratically for unknown reasons, he struck a GMC Terrain driven by Miriam Ballesteros who was driving with her husband heading to Illinois. Ms. Ballesteros was able to regain control of her vehicle and pull off the roadway but Morgan’s vehicle spun out and came to rest sideways, perpendicular to the direction of travel and in the fast lane.
The evidence showed that sometime after the crash, and without taking action to move his vehicle, to alert authorities or to warn upcoming traffic of the hazard he himself had created, Morgan fled the scene, crossed over to the southbound interstate and began walking toward Atlanta. No one at the scene including other motorists who stopped had any contact with Morgan at the scene and he was not on the scene when law enforcement later arrived.
Several minutes after the initial crash, the victim, Albert Moore, 29, and traveling from Florida to Michigan, came upon the ServPro van and was not able to stop or swerve into another lane prior to crashing into the side of the van. Moore, driving a Chrysler Sebring, suffered significant blunt force trauma from the impact and was unresponsive at the scene. He was taken by Life Flight to Erlanger in Chattanooga where he was pronounced brain dead upon arrival and later taken off life support.
Deputies with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene shortly after the second collision and began the investigation which was subsequently turned over to the Georgia State Patrol and further investigated by the GSP’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) with that part of the investigation being led by Trooper Jonathan Maxell who conducted a full reconstruction of the two collisions. Cpl. Scotty Smith, who leads SCRT Team A covering much of Northwest Georgia, located Morgan walking south on the shoulder of I-75 near Connector 3. Morgan was wearing a ServPro shirt and had the keys to the van in his pocket. He did not deny that he had been driving the vehicle but offered no explanation for his actions.
Bard called 15 witnesses and presented 92 pieces of evidence to lay out the case to the jury. Gates called one witness but Morgan did not testify in his own defense. The jury deliberated for around an hour and a half before returning a verdict of guilty on all counts.