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Charges multiply in DUI wreck that killed Cheyenne Sauls, 16

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Douglas County authorities are charging several adults they believe could have prevented the DUI wreck that killed 16-year-old Cheyenne Sauls, bringing to seven the number of people facing charges in the wreck.

The Sheriff’s Office has taken out warrants against homeowners who threw two Friday night parties that Sauls and her friends attended before the wreck. The teens had easy access to alcohol at both parties, Chief Deputy Stan Copeland said.

Also charged is Rocky Patel, owner of Chapel Hill Package Store in Douglasville. Copeland said the Sheriff’s Office has video showing Patel selling alcohol to a minor, who brought it to his house for the second party.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office has charged the 21-year-old passenger who fled the accident scene, Dustin Willis, with furnishing alcohol to minors and vehicular homicide “as a party to the crime,” Copeland said.

He was one of five people in a Chevrolet Blazer that overturned on Pleasant Drive early Saturday. The Blazer flipped several times before slamming into a U-Haul truck, killing Sauls and injuring the three other teens, including driver Jason Lark, 17.

Willis “was with this group of young folks, furnishing alcohol and allowing them to drive, drinking all night,” Copeland said. “He was at both parties. He was kind of the nexus that allowed this tragedy to occur.”

Copeland said Sauls and her friends first stopped at a party on Biscayne Way in Douglasville, at the home of Sherman Bennett Sr.

“Some juveniles and a 17-year-old named Christopher Roth convinced Mr. Bennett to go and purchase alcohol for them for that party, which he did,” Copeland said. “That’s where our victim and the rest of the group in the car wreck started out.”

They later visited a bonfire party in Douglasville, at the Sterling Pointe Drive home of Richard McAllister, Copeland said.

McAllister’s teenage son, Justin, was the one seen buying alcohol at the package store for the party, Copeland said. Another teen, Travis Platt, also is charged with buying alcohol and bringing it to that party, Copeland said.

“That’s the party they left just prior to the accident,” Copeland said.

One teen passenger, Jamie McManus, remains in the hospital. The other, Taylor Coss, has been released.

Lark is being held without bond. He is charged with DUI, first-degree vehicular homicide, two counts of serious injury by vehicle, underaged person in possesion of alcohol, driving too fast for conditions, reckless driving and no driver’s license on his person.

“Taylor [Coss] is the only one that we can determine had not had anything to drink,” Copeland said.

The chief deputy said a number of adults could have acted responsibly, but didn’t.

“You’ve got to be the adult,” he said. “Kids are kids but anywhere along this series of events, if these adults had stood up and done what the law compels them to do — ˜You can’t drink here, I’m not furnishing you with any alcohol’ — chances are it wouldn’t have happened.

“Now these people are going to pay the consequences.”

Funeral services for Sauls, a Villa Rica High School sophomore, will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Midway Macedonia Baptist Church in Villa Rica.

Her father, Eric Sauls, told Channel 2 Action News that the accident should serve as a lesson.

“There were some bad decisions made, and Cheyenne paid for it,” he said. “I hope all these other kids learn from her mistake.”

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