BEAUMONT, Texas — A 52-year-old Beaumont man accused of hitting and killing a bicyclist has been sentenced to prison for more than 27 years.
A Jefferson County jury said Friday morning Jason Lynn McKnight, 52, must pay a $10,000 fine and serve 27.5 years in a Texas prison.
McKnight was found guilty Thursday of "failure to stop and render aid" in the hit-and-run death of a Edward Stedman, who was on a bicycle at the corner of Delaware Street and Savannah Trace in Beaumont in 2020.
"My family and my friends have grieved and mourned the loss of our son for 28 months," Stedman's mother said during a victim impact statement Friday morning.
"All this time for 28 months I've screamed at God, and I've cried with God, and I'm at peace with God. And what I hope for you is you find peace," she said to McKnight.
He had faced two to 20 years but the punishment range was increased because he was sentenced as a habitual offender.
McKnight, who was found guilty of killing has three prior felony convictions.
He was originally charged with accident involving injury or death.
McKnight kept going and when police later asked him why he didn't stop, he said he thought he had hit a trash can, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The trial was held in the 252nd District Court before Judge Raquel West.
On Wednesday, a majority of the witnesses called to the stand in the trial were police officers who worked the scene.
Testimony centered on technical aspects of an investigation and what evidence may or may not indicate as the jury saw photos taken by crime scene investigators.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Ryan Gertz reminded the jury the defendant was driving slow with his warning flashers on the day of the collision that killed Stedman. He said his client has very bad vision and was diagnosed with cataracts after the collision.
Gertz then said who caused the accident or why it happened does not matter in the law under which his client was charged. The only thing that mattered is if McKnight knowingly and with knowledge left the scene of an accident that was reasonably able to cause death.
He said his client testified that he thought he had hit a trashcan, but he didn’t. He said his client isn’t lying, he just didn’t remember it the way it actually happened.
The attorney said his client did not try to hide and described actions a person would take if they had no idea a person was hurt in an accident.
Prosecutor Phillip Smith in his closing arguments told the jury that just because someone said something on the stand does not mean it’s the, “Gospel truth.”
He told the jury they can judge the defendant’s believability just like they can judge anyone else’s believability.
“Don’t lose sight of that. Let’s stay with reason and common sense,” he said.
He reminded the jury that McKnight told police he thought he hit a grey garbage can. He said McKnight lives in Beaumont and knew that Beaumont garbage cans are blue.
“You decide who to believe,” Smith told the jury.
In opening statements Tuesday, Smith told the jury that evidence is going to show that McKnight either stopped and then left after the wreck, or never even stopped at all.
“You will hear his own words after officers stopped him,” Smith said.
Smith said the defendant will say he knew he hit something, but regardless of what it was, the law says if you are involved in an accident, even one you didn’t cause, you have the duty to stop and see if anyone was hurt.
Gertz used his opening statements to remind the jury that all defendants are presumed innocent. He said each jury member must be 100% convinced to find the defendant guilty.
The attorney said his client was driving slowly and had his hazard lights on because he has serious vision issues.
McKnight usually has someone drive him places, but chose to drive himself that day because no one was available to drive him due to the COVID-19 restrictions, according to Gertz.
Gertz told the jury a person has to “knowingly leave the scene of an accident,” to be found guilty, and stressed the word “knowingly.”
He also asked the jury, “Is hitting a trash can an accident? Is hitting a part of the curb an accident?”
The deadly accident happened on March 29, 2020. Beaumont Police were called to the 5300 block of Delaware just after 9 a.m., where they found Stedman unresponsive.
Stedman had abrasion injuries all over his face, a large split area over his left eye and blood coming from his left ear. There were deep lacerations on his legs.
McKnight said that he can't see well and was trying to stay to the right side of the lane close to the curb. He was only watching the center white lane marker line to make sure he did not drift into the other lane, according to the affidavit.
After he allegedly hit Stedman, McKnight said he did not know what it was, but kept driving because it did not sound loud enough to be a wreck.
McKnight was taken into custody and transported to Baptist Hospital where he was cleared for jail, and then transported to the Jefferson County Jail.
At the time of the arrest, Stedman was in critical condition at St. Elizabeth Hospital and it was unknown if he would survive, the affidavit says.
On April 8, 2020, Stedman passed away at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston as a result of his injuries he sustained in the crash.
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This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.