Almost three years to the day after causing the death of a Marble Falls physician in a car crash, the other driver, Cameron O’Connell, entered a guilty plea for criminally negligent homicide to Travis County District Judge Dayna Blazey. The charge was knocked down from manslaughter, which the victim’s family is protesting.
On Oct. 29, 2018, O’Connell was driving a Nissan Titan pickup truck on Texas 71 in Lakeway when he attempted to pass a white SUV in front of him using the center turn lane. He lost control of his truck and crashed into an oncoming BMW driven by 32-year-old Dr. Michael Babineaux, a physician with Baylor Scott & White Specialty Clinic-Marble Falls.
Babineaux died at the scene. He left behind a wife and three young children.
O’Connell, 32, pleaded guilty to the charge on Friday, Nov. 5. The judge set the sentencing date for Dec. 10. Under Texas law, a person found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, a state jail felony, faces 180 days to two years in jail or probation.
Babineaux’s family wasn’t pleased with the plea to a lesser charge than the manslaughter charge O’Connell initially faced. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a possible punishment of two to 20 years.
Babineaux’s family was also angered by the term O’Connell’s attorneys are asking for in the punishment phase.
“The family is seeking justice and considers a plea deal for this crime unacceptable,” the Babineaux family said in a statement released Nov. 5 following the plea. “O’Connell’s defense is seeking three years’ probation with deferred adjudication. This is absurd. The evidence is overwhelming in this case. This was a senseless death totally caused by road rage, using his vehicle as a deadly weapon.”
According to an arrest warrant affidavit for manslaughter filled out by Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Jarek Stuart, O’Connell was traveling west in the inside lane of Texas 71 in the Lakeway area when he attempted to pass an SUV by using the center turn lane.
Witnesses told the investigation that O’Connell was “tailgating” the SUV after it had moved in between his pickup truck and the vehicle in front of him. They told the trooper that O’Connell then moved into the turn lane and accelerated to a high rate of speed to pass.
Witnesses told the trooper that O’Connell lost control of his pickup when he tried to move back to the inside westbound lane in front of the SUV. The pickup then crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with Babineaux’s BMW.
In the affidavit, the trooper stated the center turn lane was clearly marked a “No Passing Zone.”
Following the collision, O’Connell was arrested on the manslaughter charge. A Travis County grand jury indicted O’Connell on manslaughter and identified his vehicle as a deadly weapon.
Babineaux’s family is speaking out in an effort to prevent other families from enduring a similar tragedy.
Three days after his death, Babineaux’s wife gave birth to their third child.
“Michael was a loving father and a complete family man,” the family’s public statement continued. “He had plans for his family and their future together. O’Connell, after killing Michael, can continue with the normalcy of his life. How is this justice?”
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office did not reply to inquiries regarding this case.