UPDATE: Columbus woman charged with vehicular homicide in 2011 pedestrian crash

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 5, 2012 

A Columbus woman who struck and killed a pedestrian last year was charged with vehicular homicide on Wednesday after a blood test came back positive for drugs, authorities said.

Before submitting to the test, Nalani M. Walton, 39, told investigators, “I will have Xanax and Oxycodone in my system, plus I smoke a little marijuana,” according to a police report of the crash, which took the life of 52-year-old Walter James Cooper.

The crash happened shortly after midnight on June 2 at the downtown intersection of 13th Street and Fifth Avenue. Police said Cooper was crossing 13th Street about 5 feet west of the crosswalk when Walton drove through a green light at the intersection and struck him.

Walton, who stopped the 2006 Nissan Altima after the crash and called 911, told authorities she hadn’t seen Cooper until he crashed into her windshield. Cooper landed some 40 feet from the point of impact, police said, the force of the crash knocking off his shoes and hat.

The first officers on the scene reported the pedestrian had “a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath,” the report said. Cooper, who was wearing blue jeans and a dark-colored shirt, was rushed to The Medical Center with facial lacerations, a facial fracture and a dislocated right elbow and toe.

He later died of complications caused by the crash, authorities said.

In an interview with police, Walton said she was driving about 35-40 mph at the time of the crash. She had been on her way to Acceptance Motor Corporation to drop off a payment.

Walton had slurred speech and “was unable to complete thoughts as questions were asked,” according to the report, which added that Walton “would start to answer the questions then stare off into space and not complete sentences or fully answer the questions.”

Police said Walton also failed a sobriety test.

She told police she had taken a Xanax tablet about eight hours before the crash and Oxycodone about 14 hours before the crash. She also said she’d smoked marijuana the day before the crash.

Walton showed investigators a prescription bottle of Xanax in which she had marked through the prescribing physician’s name as well as the quantity dispensed, according to police.

“When questioned about that, she stated that she did it because some people in her family stole pills from her and she somehow believed that would deter future thefts,” the police report says.

Jail records show Walton also was charged with driving under the influence.

A man who answered the telephone at her number declined to comment on the case.

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