Driver in fatal accident charged

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

The driver of a wrong-way vehicle police say claimed the life of former Portales High three-sport standout Ashleah Richards is facing felony charges.

Jimmey Scott Barnhill of Midland, Texas, was indicted Nov. 19 on one count of intoxicated manslaughter for the death of Richards, 21.

Police said on Oct. 11, Barnhill drove his vehicle south in the northbound lanes of I-27 and smashed into Richards’s car about three miles south of Hale Center, Texas.

Barnhill was also charged with four counts of intoxicated assault.

Barnhill could not be reached for comment.

Richards, the only fatality in the accident, was driving a vehicle with four passengers.

Mark Richards, Ashleah’s father, noted his daughter was the designated driver for a group of women in their early 20s who traveled to the Daquiri Lounge in Lubbock.

En route home, the Richards’ vehicle — owned by Erica Rodriguez — stopped at a Whataburger restaurant and met four other residents of Plainview.

The group offered to caravan with the women back home and was in the next lane when the accident occurred at approximately 3:51 a.m.

“She was the only one, out of 10 people involved that night, who wasn’t drinking,” Richards said. “She wasn’t even gonna go. She was going to go to a movie with her mother (Lorraine Richards) and I, when these girls came into Chili’s, where she worked, and talked her into going.”

“It’s really hard, but it’s just something we’re trying to get through,” said Rodriguez, 21, who added her group of friends routinely selected a designated driver when drinking was involved in their activities.

Ashleah Richards, who graduated from Portales High in 2006, was on the Rams’ basketball, volleyball and softball teams.

She played volleyball for one year at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview while attending college.