published Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Whitwell, Tenn., man charged in May crash that killed mother, grandmother

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    Whitwell crash

JASPER, Tenn. -- A Whitwell man has been charged with multiple felonies related to a vehicle chase and crash that left a 41-year-old mother and grandmother dead, according to authorities.

Donnie Lee Slatton, 39, was charged on grand jury indictments last week with criminally negligent homicide, vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident involving a death, Marion County Circuit Court records state.

The crash happened May 1 a little after 9 p.m. CDT on state Highway 108, just a few miles west of Whitwell, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol records. Phillis Watts was killed in the wreck.

Watts' mother, Dale Watts, said her daughter's death shattered the family and stunned her daughter's co-workers at Rock Tenn. She said company officials were gracious in letting employees who worked with her daughter attend funeral services.

Some Slatton family members live nearby, and one of Donnie Slatton's brothers "helped my daughter while she died," Dales Watts said.

"Two families have lost a child in a way," she said. "We realize this is a hard time for his family as well as ours. We are just looking for some justice for our daughter."

On May 1, Phillis Watts was traveling south on Highway 108 when she "suddenly lost control [and] violently veered left into a spin," Trooper William Collins' report states. Watts' 1999 Chevrolet Camaro struck the sign at Janie's Grocery with the rear of the car, then slammed into a utility pole on the driver's side, the report states.

Collins described Slatton's vehicle, a 1997 Chevrolet pickup truck, as a "noncontact" vehicle, but stated that Slatton "admitted to chasing ... Watts prior to the crash," the report states.

Slatton told Collins he and the victim had been in a "domestic disturbance" before the chase and crash, the report states.

According to court records, Slatton also left the scene of the accident.

Slatton is free on bond and his next date in Circuit Court is Nov. 3, according to court and jail officials.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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