By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — The landlord of a former tenant, who is now accused of causing a deadly accident while on painkillers, said there was no indication drugs were being abused by the man leasing the home.
Investigators have said that the accused driver, Edgewood police office James D. Foutch, may have been impaired by the use of hydrocodone, a painkiller. He is charged with operating while intoxicated causing death, a Class B felony.
Robert Smith, owner of a home in the 1900 block of Rosewood Drive, Anderson, has sued his former tenants, Foutch and Foutch's girlfriend, Erica Manis, for about $3,300 in back rent. The case is in Madison Circuit Court 5.
Foutch, 41, is accused of causing a fatal accident Sunday in which a father, whose wife was expecting a child, was killed. Foutch was driving an SUV in the 7500 block of West Indiana 32 that afternoon with Manis, 24, as his passenger, police said. The SUV rear-ended a Buick sedan driven by 22-year-old Rebecca Sperry. The force of the impact drove the Buick off the roadway and into a utility pole, disintegrating the vehicle.
Sperry's 23-year-old husband, Jesse, was killed. Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay said Jesse Sperry was dead at the scene due to multiple massive head, chest and internal injuries. The couple were on their way home to Noblesville from church in Edgewood, and the mother was scheduled to give birth to their first child that night.
Rebecca Sperry was airlifted from the scene by medical helicopter to St. Vincent Indianapolis, where she gave birth to a daughter, Autumn Marie, by emergency C-section. According to Sperry's father, John Keefe, the mother and baby are still recovering at St. Vincent and Riley Hospital for Children, respectively, and their conditions are improving.
Last August, landlord Robert Smith began eviction proceedings against Foutch and Manis.
Wednesday, Smith said Foutch could be difficult to reason with, but otherwise the couple kept the house in good condition and there was no evidence of drug abuse.
Smith said he never received a reason from the couple as to why they stopped paying rent. Edgewood Town Marshal Andrew Ellingwood said he was aware Foutch was experiencing financial issues and was starting to have his wages garnished, but Ellingwood wasn't sure why.
After the accident Sunday, Foutch was placed on administrative leave by the department, and the Town Council is expected to determine whether the leave will be paid.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he's attempting to find a criminal lab that will rush the results of Foutch's blood work, which was taken after the accident. Foutch faces a preliminary charge of operating while intoxicated causing death, a Class B felony, but that could change as investigators continue to gather information.
On Tuesday, Foutch's father said he had no comment on the matter. There was no response at Foutch's current address when reporters from The Herald Bulletin visited Monday.
In the wake of the accident, friends and community services have mobilized to raise money for the family. A Youcaring.com website created by two friends of the family has raised nearly $15,000 from more than 250 donors. A motorcycle ride has been planned for April 27 by local fundraising group Second Chance to Get It Right.
Jesse Sperry worked two jobs and the couple didn't have health insurance.
Pastor Tom Lutz of Edgewood Baptist Church, where the couple were members, said he's encouraged the family to take their time and allow the mother and baby to heal before planning anything else. Robert D. Loose Funeral Homes is planning the funeral, but no date has been set. The funeral will be at Edgewood Baptist.
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If you would like to donate to the family Visit youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/love-for-rebecca-and-autumn/160859 Or send a check payable to Edgewood Baptist Church, 3743 Nichol Ave., Anderson, IN 46011