Man pleads not guilty in death of trooper

TUPELO – William Francis pleaded not guilty Wednesday to manslaughter by culpable negligence for a high-speed chase that killed veteran Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Steve Hood.
Francis, 25, of Baldwyn entered his plea during arraignment in Lee County Circuit Court. He remains released from jail on $100,000 bond, which was agreed upon by the District Attorney’s Office and Hood’s family on June 17.
Francis’ attorney, Tony Farese, said his client initially was charged with felony fleeing that results in a death, but when the grand jury returned the indictment against Francis on July 10, it was for manslaughter by culpable negligence.
He said he knew there was a possibility the charges could be changed.
The felony fleeing charge carried a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years. The manslaughter charged carries only a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Farese said no trial date has been set.
Hood, a 28-year patrol veteran, was killed May 29 while pursuing a vehicle reportedly driven by Francis on Highway 370 at Brice’s Crossroads west of Baldwyn.
Hood’s car flipped several times, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine said Hood suffered extensive injuries, which made it hard to pinpoint the exact cause of death.
Three other people were reportedly in the vehicle with Francis at the time of the accident, but none of them have been charged.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal