LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The family of a Las Vegas man who a driver — high on drugs — killed 10 years ago said hearing the same driver faces charges of DUI resulting in death again highlights how the system is failing.
Prentiss Bates, 50, pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of a controlled substance resulting in death in 2013. Bates was driving a car in November 2012 when he crashed into a motorcycle, killing its rider, Jim Burchette, 58, records said.
Prosecutors said Bates was high on PCP at the time, records showed. The car he was driving was rented to another person.
Bates told the responding officer he had recently smoked marijuana. The officer at the time noted Bates did not have a valid Nevada driver’s license and had a suspended California license, records showed. Bates also told the officer he had a prior DUI in California.
A judge sentenced Bates to 8 to 20 years in prison. The judge also ordered an interlock device be placed on his car for a minimum of 3 years following his release.
On Thursday, Las Vegas Metro police said Bates was driving a car under the influence when he slammed into the front of a parked car, killing its driver, Demarr Sims, 40, of Las Vegas. The crash happened around 2 a.m. near Rancho Drive and Craig Road in the northwest valley.
Sims’ car was parked in the far-right lane in a coned-off construction zone facing southbound on Rancho Drive and north of Red Coach Avenue. A Jeep Grand Cherokee, driven by Bates, was driving northbound on Rancho south of Red Coach just before the crash, police said.
Police did not indicate if Bates owned the vehicle nor what substance they suspect he had consumed.
Bates faces new charges of DUI resulting in death, reckless driving resulting in death, failure to maintain his lane, failure to drive on the right half of the road, and an enhancement of vehicular homicide, police said.
“Seeing that name, I didn’t want to believe it. Because, how? Why?” Jim Burchette’s son, Bert Burchette, told the 8 News Now Investigators on Friday. “This is a man who decided to become impaired and get behind the wheel of a car, and he took a person’s life. He took my dad’s life.”
Jim Burchette, a husband and father who grew up in northern Nevada, loved to ride motorcycles, his son said. He and his wife, Anna Burchette, would be celebrating 40 years of marriage this year.
“He would go out every Sunday and ride,” Bert Burchette said. On that Sunday in November 2012, Jim Burchette went out on a ride – but did not come home.
“I kept calling my dad and I could not get through to him,” Bert Burchette said.
Bates hit Burchette’s motorcycle head-on near Cheyenne Avenue and Nellis Boulevard, a police report said.
Bert Burchette said he and his family attended every court hearing leading up to Bates’ sentencing. The family said they were notified he was up for parole but were not told he was released from prison.
It was not until the Burchettes read the 8 News Now Investigators’ report on Thursday about Bates’ latest fatal DUI charge that the family learned Bates was free, Bert Burchette said.
In June, prosecutors charged Bates with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officers said they found Bates sleeping behind the wheel of a car near Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road.
A judge set bail at $50,000. Bates was released on $5,000 bond pending another court appearance. Before his release, a judge ordered him not to drive and to wear a monitoring bracelet. The judge’s name is not written in the court docket, indicating it was a person filling in on a temporary basis.
Records show Bates failed to appear at an August hearing and a warrant was issued for his arrest. A hearing happened in August, but it was unclear if Bates appeared or if an attorney appeared on his behalf. Bates remained out on bond pending a hearing in November — until his arrest Thursday.
“This other death was preventable,” Bert Burchette said. “It was preventable on his part and it was preventable on the system’s part.”
During his probable cause hearing Friday morning, a judge ordered Bates to be held without bail.
“He is a danger to the community,” prosecutor Noreen DeMonte said. “He has killed now two people.”
Bates’ next court hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.