James Benton Williford sits awaiting the start of a plea bargain on Thursday at the Hardin County Courthouse in the 356th District Courtroom under Honorable Steve Thomas. - Photo by Daniel Elizondo
James Benton Williford made the concerted chose to make a plea deal that ended on guilty charges of three counts from a hit-and-run accident involving a Silsbee family that occurred on December 2, 2011.
Williford, 62, pled guilty to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, each carrying a 10-year sentence to be served concurrently, set by the Honorable Steve Thomas of the 356th District Court at the Hardin County Courthouse.
Simon O’Quinn, 61, and his two granddaughters Swa Derrick, 10, and Ivy Pilgreen, 6, were critically injured when Williford allegedly ignored a stopped school bus on FM 418 near Mill Creek west of Silsbee, striking the three individuals in his Ford F-150 pickup truck as they left the school bus.
Williford was later apprehended, and charged with one count of passing a school bus and causing serious bodily injury, three counts intoxication assault, one count failure to stop and render aid, and DWI with an open container.
“It wasn’t exactly what we wanted,” said Jeannie O’Quinn, the mother of Swa and Ivy. “It’s half of what they were talking about before, but at least he isn’t getting off scot-free.”
Williford is a retired educator from Kountze ISD and was the primary caretaker of his parents before they both passed several years ago. He was a special education teacher.
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Grant Belvin was in charge of the investigation and arrested Williford after answering the call.
Williford cooperated with Belvin during his arrest and gave permission for a blood sample. The release from
Texas Department of Public Safety came back with a .26 blood alcohol level, nearly 3-times the legal limit in the state of Texas.
Attorney Gary Butler, representing Williford, called for a bond reduction hearing late in December but it was denied by Judge Thomas.
The hearing was to reduce the intoxication assault charges to $50,000 for each charge. Williford’s bond was set at $786,000.
All three individuals involved in the accident are out of the hospital.
All other charges were dropped as a part of the plea deal. Williford will be eligible for parole in five years.