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A Rogersville man with a criminal history of drunken driving and a long pattern of driving without a license has been charged with murder in connection to the Oct. 31, 2021, death of 72-year-old Linda Jeanne Ward, of Springfield.
Donald R. Pierce Jr., 49, was charged on Sept. 30. He is accused of driving a Chevrolet Silverado while high on methamphetamine and crossing the median on West Bypass and striking head-on (without hitting his brakes) a 2018 Honda Pilot being driven by Chester “Ron” Ward, Linda Ward’s husband, according to court documents.
The death occurred at 8:10 on a Sunday morning, Halloween day. Linda Ward was in the front passenger seat. She was a grandmother to 10.
On their way to be greeters at church
“They were on their way to Seminole Baptist Church,” said Linda Ward’s son, Jeffrey Etem. “They had their greeters’ tags on.
“The last thing in the world you would expect at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning is for someone to cross over the median,” he said.
The Springfield Daily Citizen spoke to Etem Tuesday morning.
Etem said his mother married Chester “Ron” Ward in 1996. Etem said his mother and Chester Ward traveled the nation, often going to gospel concerts, and also ventured abroad.
All four tires blown out on impact
According to court documents, Pierce allegedly was heading north on West Bypass when he crossed over an 8-inch high median and hit the Honda Pilot, which was traveling south in the southbound lane.
This happened at about the 2200 block of South West Bypass.
All four tires on the Silverado blew out on impact, according to court documents.
Police obtained a search warrant to check data on the Silverado, according to court documents, and determined Pierce never applied his brakes. After crossing into oncoming traffic, he never made an effort to avoid the crash.
According to Etem, Chester Ward spent five weeks in the hospital.
Minutes before crash, someone called 911
Minutes prior to the accident, according to court documents, police received two 911 calls from someone who reported the Silverado was swerving dangerously through traffic on westbound Highway 60.
A different person, identified as K.H. in court documents, witnessed the Silverado cross into oncoming traffic and saw the collision on West Bypass.
Pierce was taken to the hospital, according to court documents.
A report from CoxHealth and a lab report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol both indicated Pierce had methamphetamine in his system, according to court documents.
Those same documents state the CoxHealth report was obtained via subpoena and that Pierce consented to having a sample of his blood taken.
That he was still driving ‘beyond sickening’
According to court documents, Pierce has a criminal past — mostly involving driving under the influence and driving without insurance or without a license — that covers decades.
At the time of the fatal crash, for example, court documents state Pierce did not have insurance on the Silverado.
Etem said he and family members have been waiting for charges to be filed in the case.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words when you see a serial offender who continues to be able to be driving on the streets,” he said. “It is beyond sickening.
“It has been such a long time since mom passed away,” he said. “We are just hoping they are doing their due diligence, and we are hoping that this guy gets put away for a long time.
“If we can get this right this time, although I don’t even know if you can ever get this right,” he said.
Defendant had four alcohol-related convictions
Pierce had 23 administrative actions taken against his driver’s license between Oct. 25, 1993, and Aug. 3, 2009. An administrative action can include civil actions taken by the Department of Revenue.
Pierce was convicted of DWI on July 14, 1999 and June 24, 2003.
He was convicted for felony level driving while intoxicated during arrests that occurred on June 4, 2006 (Springfield police) and July 3, 2008 (Missouri State Highway Patrol), according to court documents.
On July 3, 2008, he was also convicted of resisting arrest.
He also has been convicted twice for possession of a controlled substance.
According to court documents: “Donald Pierce has received suspended jail/prison sentences on six convictions and completed probation in lieu of incarceration.”
‘In the end, you just never know’
Pierce also has five convictions for driving without a license and two convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked license, according to documents.
Etem said that both his grandmother and his great-grandmother lived into their 90s.
He and other family members thought they would have many more years with his mother, who was 72 when she died last year in the crash.
According to her obituary, Linda Jeanne Ward worked for City Utilities for 27 years, retiring in 2003.
The obit states: She loved her family and friends, flower gardening, taking lots and lots of pictures, church attendance and church activities and wintering in Texas.