Woman charged with manslaughter, assault in Jill Morrison’s car crash death
Reprinted with permission from the Springfield News-Leader with local information added.
A Walnut Grove woman was charged Dec. 12 in connection with a 2016 crash that left a mother dead and her two children injured.
Billie Jo Howard, 39, said she had smoked marijuana, drank alcohol and taken an unknown “pain pill” on Dec. 8, 2016, before the crash near Bois D’Arc, troopers say.
Howard was allegedly driving her gold minivan more than 25 mph over the speed limit when she lost control, crossed the center line and slammed into a Chevrolet HHR on Farm Road 104.
The minivan flipped over in the crash, and the HHR came to rest in a ditch.
Emergency responders pulled Jill D. Morrison, 41, out of her car and airlifted her to a Springfield hospital, where she died later that evening. She was the wife of former Ozark County resident Travis Morrison, and the daughter-in-law of former Ozark County presiding commissioner David Morrison and his wife, Mary.
Court records filed last week in Greene County say Howard had a blood alcohol content of .053 percent and had meth in her system. The BAC is below Missouri’s .08 legal limit.
Howard allegedly said the pain pill — for which she did not have a prescription — left her feeling “foggy.”
The day after the collision, Morrison’s minister told the News-Leader that Morrison and her family were the “sweetest, best people.”
“We recognize that there are many things that aren’t fair ... We live in a world where there are problems and sometimes, they seem to be random,” minister Bill McFarland said in 2016. “I don’t think there is an explanation for it.”
The fatal crash is described in a probable cause statement filed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which said Howard was driving between 70 and 75 mph, but the speed limit was 45 mph.
One of Morrison’s children suffered a broken collarbone, the statement said, and the other child had a bruised head, a cut hand and injured hips.
Howard and another person in the van suffered moderate injuries, a crash report said.
Howard has been charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault for the crash. Court records say a warrant has been issued for her arrest.
Chief James Kilburn of the Bois D’Arc Fire Protection District spoke with the News-Leader the day of the crash. He described the area where the crash took place as a country road with a “bad hill.”
“It’s a bad spot in the road,” Kilburn said.