Originally created 08/01/02

Driver charged in wreck had prior DUI conviction



Neighbors on Hopkins Street used to joke about "driving Miss Daisy" because they would occasionally take 84-year-old Daisy Oliver on trips to the corner store or a doctor's appointment.

On Tuesday afternoon, her niece, 53-year-old Hattie Mae Umoh, of Hephzibah, was driving her across town for a visit when they were both killed in a crash on Deans Bridge Road that police say was caused by a drunken driver.

As relatives of the victims' family planned funerals for the women Wednesday, police were learning more about David Wallace Fulcher, the Augusta CSX railroad employee who, police say, caused the accident and walked away with minor injuries.

Mr. Fulcher, 35, of the 1000 block of Stevens Creek Road, was charged Wednesday with two counts of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, following too closely, possessing an open container of alcohol and having no proof of insurance. He was being held without bond Wednesday night at the Richmond County jail.

Research by The Augusta Chronicle shows it wasn't the first time Mr. Fulcher was accused of rear-ending someone while drunk. Tuesday's scene was familiar for Chuck Reeves.

Mr. Reeves, 58, was riding in his pickup on Mike Padgett Highway on May 30, 1994, when Mr. Fulcher slammed him from behind, sending Mr. Reeves' truck into an embankment. Mr. Reeves spent two days in intensive care.

"I used to be a carpenter," he said. "But because of the wreck, I couldn't work for a year."

Mr. Fulcher suffered minor injuries in the wreck and left a courtroom a month later with a sentence of probation and community service. He had pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, following too closely, possessing an open container and driving with a suspended license.

Mr. Fulcher later settled a lawsuit with Mr. Reeves for about $15,000.

"A slap on the wrist was all he got," Mr. Reeves said.

The 1994 accident came three years after Mr. Fulcher was given a year of probation and fined $260 for driving on a suspended license in a 1991 fender bender.

On Tuesday, police said, Mr. Fulcher was driving with an opened beer in his truck when he slammed into the rear of Ms. Umoh's compact car, forcing it into a city dump truck and killing both women instantly.

The women were stopping at a red light. Police say Mr. Fulcher didn't stop, and the absence of skid marks indicates he didn't attempt to.

The suspect's mother, Ann Fulcher, said her son is remorseful.

"He's cried his eyeballs clear out," she said Wednesday night, acknowledging that her son had two previous DUIs. "But it ain't like he's the only one in Richmond County that drives and drinks. He just got caught."

Mr. Fulcher's most recent accident took the lives of two women who were deeply loved by their families.

Ms. Umoh was a nurses' assistant at Gracewood State School and Hospital. She is survived by four children, including Clemson basketball standout Itoro Umoh-Coleman, who now coaches the Lady Tigers.

Mrs. Umoh-Coleman spent Wednesday with family, trying to understand her mother's death.

"It still hasn't hit me yet. I lost my mom," she said. "People that drink, they are not only putting themselves in a bad situation, but the people around them."

Ms. Oliver was a strong Jehovah's Witness who has spent the past few years battling lung cancer and leukemia. She left University Hospital on Monday after a bout with pneumonia.

"She was fighting for her life," said her nephew Rudolph Brown III.

Ms. Oliver's younger sister, Inez Martin, said her sister loved to talk to people about coming to church. She had a lot of "spunk," she said.

"I'm going to miss her," Ms. Martin said. "She's the only sister I had left."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.