BACLIFF

A Galveston County jury sentenced a Friendswood resident Friday to 15 years in prison for intoxication manslaughter in a 2016 crash that left a 4-year-old boy dead.

A weeklong trial concluded late Thursday when the jury returned a guilty verdict against Justin James Forsyth, 38.

The punishment phase followed Friday.

Adriel Hernandez, 4, died after he was struck in the 4300 block of 10th Street in Bacliff about 7:30 p.m. in July of 2016, authorities said.

“We need to stop calling what happened to Adriel an accident,” Assistant District Attorney Kacey Launius said during the punishment phase of the trial. “This happened because of a series of bad choices made by the defendant.”

Hernandez, who was dragged about 15 feet after being struck, was taken to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, where he died from a severe head injury, authorities said.

Witnesses told investigators the boy was playing on the side of the road with a toy truck when he was struck, officials said. Adults were present supervising the child and other kids were playing in the yard, officials said.

Forsyth was accused of striking the child with his motorcycle, officials said. He was driving on the wrong side of the road when he struck the boy, officials said.

Galveston County sheriff’s deputies obtained a search warrant to test Forsyth’s blood alcohol content, which showed the level was .260, which is about three times the legal limit.

The jury deliberated for about an hour before returning with the guilty verdict, First Assistant Kevin Petroff said.

During the punishment phase of the trial Friday, prosecutors painted Forsyth as a man with a history of legal and drinking issues.

Forsyth had a criminal history in Michigan that included violation of a restricted license, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and retail fraud, among others, Launius said.

“He made a choice that day to wake up and immediately start drinking,” Launius said.

Launius described several trips Forsyth took the day he struck Hernandez, explaining that his decision to drive intoxicated was not an isolated incident.

Forsyth’s attorney, Paul Lavalle, asked the jury to give him probation, saying what he really needed was help and medical intervention for his drinking problem.

Assistant District Attorney Kayla Allen concluded the punishment hearing by telling the jury that probation wasn’t enough and that they needed to send a message by sentencing Forsyth to the maximum 20 years.

The jury later returned from deliberations to sentence Forsyth to 15 years in prison and fined him $10,000, court records show.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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