vehicular homicide

ccn ccn_123 at net.north
Sat Jul 26 09:28:08 EST 1997


LSUMC Medical/Dental 1995
University of Pittsburgh - Dental 1989
Pittsburgh, PA. native
Vehicular homicide - New Orleans, LA. 
Date of homicide - 2/17/95
LSUMC Medical degree awarded - 5/20/95
LSUMC Residency program addmission - 7/8/95
Date of Conviction - 11/30/95
Date of Sentencing - 2/15/96
Date of Appeal Denial - 6/18/97
Date of release 6/5/03

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Times-Picayune
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 16, 1996

-------------------------

Driver gets 15 years for death in bayou
     by
James Varney   staff writer

A Louisiana State University medical student who killed a woman when he drove his car into
Bayou St. John after a night of heavy drinking was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison.

Christopher Nabors, wearing handcuffs and an orange prison jumpsuit, bowed his head as he
listened to a judge describe him as a heartless villain who let his date drown last year.

District Judge Dennis Waldron, ignoring Nabors last minute display of remorse, gave the budding
physician the maximum sentence for vehicular homicide. Nabors earliest possible release date
under "good time" provisions will come in 2003.

Nabors, 31, was convicted in November of vehicular homicide in the death of Michelle Haensel,
25, of Metairie. Nabors now admits he was staggering drunk when he drove his car into Bayou
St. John on the eastern edge of City Park on Feb. 17, 1995.

The car sank, and Nabors clambered out through the sun roof. But he apparently made no effort
to help the Haensel and the woman died while strapped into the passenger seat of the Eagle Talon
sports car.

Waldron said he is haunted by the image of Haensel pinned in the car. But he expressed even
more anger at Nabors attitude in the tragedy's aftermath.

Nabors in oral surgery training at LSU Medical School, worried about his career, his car
insurance and his vehicle - but not Haensel, trial testimony showed.

When he arrived at Charity Hospital that night, witnesses testified Nabors said: "I didn't know the
bitch's name. I just picked her up in a bar."

"Your lack of respect for the victim by calling her  the bitch' is something that will remain with
me forever," Waldron said. "She deserves better than that on her tombstone."

Another factor leading to the harsh sentence was Nabors' purchase, after the accident, of a pickup
truck with "Splash" decals on the rear and side doors. Haensel's parents were aghast when they
spotted Nabors driving that truck, a point they stressed in letters to Waldron. The Judge was
incredulous after Nabors and two doctors friends testified they never considered the implications
of "Splash" on the truck.

"I guess my sensibilities are a little more delicate than yours," Waldron said.

Before sentencing, in testimony punctured by frequent tears, Nabors said he prays for the Haensel
family and is wracked with guilt because of what he did.

Describing himself as a raging alcoholic, Nabors admitted he guzzled beer and hard liquor shots
for hours before getting in his car with Haensel. Looking at Haensel's mother, Cookie, Nabors
begged for forgiveness.

"I was an idiot. It's my fault. I am completely responsible," Nabors said. "I can't say I like myself
very much, but I'm not evil and I never meant to hurt anybody."

When Waldron announced the maximum sentence, Nabors parents and family hurried from the
courtroom. "God!" his father shouted, pounding on the heavy wooden door as he left.

His parents declined to comment on the matter, but Nabors brother, Eric, said the family believes
Nabors is sincere with his expression of remorse.

"We feel like nothing that was said today was taken into consideration," Eric Nabors said.

But the Haensels were quick to dismiss Nabors testimony as mere performance.

"He a careless human being who only showed remorse after he was found guilty to try and save
himself," Cookie Haensel said. "But God has answered our prayers, and we hope this sentence
makes a statement in the City."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Drowning case; unfinished justice

by James Gill - Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Haensel will not be fully avenged unless the doctor, or doctors, who committed that obstruction
of justice are prosecuted and stripped of their license to practice.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          
  .
Christopher Nabors's friends rallied round on his arrival in the early hours of the morning at
Charity Hospital, where he was doing his residency.

Nabors was probably still wet after swimming ashore and leaving Michele Haensel to drown,
trapped into the small car he had driven into Bayou St. John.

Since Nabors was dead drunk, he faced mandatory jail time if convicted of homicide. The EMS
technicians were instructed to leave the room, which they said had never happened before, while
innocent fluids were pumped into Nabors veins
.
Blood tests then showed an alcohol level consistent with drinking a glass of wine at dinner
whereas Nabors had been guzzling beer and shots for hours.

In the course of that debauch he had gotten into a row with a barman and told him to watch
out if he ever wound up being treated at Charity. Apparently the Hippocratic oath isn't hip in

some circles these days.

Nabors was able to hire hotshot defense attorney John Reed, who pleaded him innocent 
and attacked the states case as "innuendo and guesswork", but the jury was not fooled. Now we
know why fraudulent evidence is described as "doctored".

Haensel will not be fully avenged unless the doctor, or doctors, who committed that obstruction
of justice are prosecuted and stripped of their license to practice.

Perhaps, though, Haensel can never be fully avenged. Although Judge Dennis Waldron imposed
the maximum sentence, 15 years was it. With good time Nabors could be out in 2003.

Let us not blame the Legislature for coddling criminals, however. When that maximum sentence
was enacted, nobody could have anticipated such a case as this. If Nabors had wanted to ensure
that he got a long stretch, and earned universal contempt into the bargain, he could not have done
a better job.

Not only did he make no attempt to save Haensel - climbing through the sunroof without even
trying to unfasten her seatbelt - he was in no hurry to tell anyone she was in the water.

He had no time to worry about her, because he had his career, his nifty sports car and his
insurance premiums to fret about. At Charity he announced, "I don't even know the bitch's name."
He later bought a pickup truck with the word "Splash" emblazoned on the aide and rear.

When Haensel's parents spotted Nabors driving around town; they naturally concluded that he
was making a joke about her death and wrote outraged letters to Waldron.

When Nabors was hauled up for sentencing, he testified that it hadn't occurred to him that the
truck decals might add to his already  considerable reputation as a heartless jerk.

Two of his colleagues also told an incredulous Waldron that the implications hadn't occurred to
them either. If medical schools are graduating people who are this insensitive, or this stupid, the
rest of us had better hope we don't get sick.

Nabors turned out to have feelings after all, for his own plight reduced him to tears on the
witness stand. At last, he admitted that he was drunk the night. Haensel was killed and, indeed,
that he was no stranger to alcohol-induced blackouts.

A couple of Nabors' colleagues testified that, sure, he was an arrogant sob, but then so were
they, because that's the way you have to be to cope with the demands of attending to the
sufferings of humanity.

Plenty of doctors will be inclined to regard that as a slander on their profession, and the testimony
evidently didn't do Nabors any good.

Neither, in the end, did the friends who hooked him up to the IV at Charity in an attempt to save
his skin while police were still struggling to haul Haensel's body from the bayou. Prosecutors said
they are looking into the case and reviewing the evidence.

While Nabors is now safely locked up, more justice remain to be done.

James Gill is a staff writer.



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