The case of a former part-time Franklin County Sheriff’s Office court security officer accused of being intoxicated during a deadly ATV crash last month will be presented to a grand jury.
Mario Chavez, 42, had a preliminary hearing Friday on amended charges of second-degree manslaughter, a Class C felony, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, aggravated circumstances, first offense, a Class D felony.
He previously pleaded not guilty to charges in the June 21 ATV accident in Owen County that killed 73-year-old Patricia Karsner. Chavez, of Frankfort, is currently on house arrest and will have to undergo random drug and alcohol tests, court records state.
Owen County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Crawford reported that, at Chavez’s preliminary hearing, District Judge Elizabeth Chandler found probable cause to send the case before a grand jury for consideration. The next grand jury in Owen County will convene July 23. The case could then proceed through the courts.
During Chavez' arraignment, Owen County Attorney Josh Smith called for the suspect to surrender his passport. However, Chandler ruled that due to his “significant ties” to the community, Chavez would only have to surrender his driver's license, court records state.
According to Kentucky State Police reports, the Owen County Sheriff’s Office arrived about 4:30 p.m. June 21 at the scene of the crash. Chavez allegedly had been driving with Karsner as his passenger on an ATV when the two wrecked on Old Landing Road, leaving Karsner with critical injuries. She was taken by helicopter to the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital for treatment and died several hours later.
An Owen County sheriff's deputy wrote on Chavez’s arrest citation that Chavez smelled like an alcoholic beverage following the accident. Chavez allegedly admitted to drinking beer and was later administered a preliminary breath test that reportedly revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.149%, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08% percent, court records state.
Chavez was charged at the time with first-degree assault, a Class B felony, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, 0.08 aggravator, first offense, a Class B misdemeanor.
As he was being booked into the Carroll County Detention Center in Owen County on the charges, Karsner died from the injuries she sustained in the crash.
Chavez posted a $10,000 cash bond the day after the crash.
Chavez had previously worked for FCSO from 2015 until a DUI arrest in Shelby County in 2016, when then-Sheriff Pat Melton terminated his employment. He went on to have the DUI conviction expunged from his record and had been working part time at the Owen County Courthouse under Sheriff Mark Bess before being rehired by FCSO earlier this year. He also has been a proprietor of Casa Mexican Restaurant in Owenton since 1994, according to his LinkedIn account.
Sheriff Chris Quire, who rehired Chavez as a part-time court security officer earlier this year, said that given his performance after the DUI case and the charges being expunged, he decided to give Chavez a second chance. After being arrested on the latest DUI charge, Quire terminated Chavez's employment.
If Chavez is indicted by an Owen County grand jury on the manslaughter charges, he will then be arraigned in circuit court.