Family and friends of Amber Roussel sought justice in Judge John Stevens’ Criminal District Court on Monday, March 18, after Roussel was killed by a drunk driver on I-10 traveling to a weekend getaway in Houston with her husband, Ryan Roussel.
The man who pleaded guilty to killing her, Derek Wesley McBride, 25, was indicted by a grand jury in November 2012 for the July 30, 2012, collision that killed Amber, 31, and severely injured her husband, Ryan Roussel, 36, both of Louisiana.
McBride received eight years in state jail for intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter. According to sources familiar with the case, his previous criminal history of drunk driving contributed to McBride’s plea — avoiding a trial where, if convicted, McBride could have spent up to 20 years in prison.
Soon after his arrest, McBride bonded out of jail. But the July 2012 bonds — $100,000 for intoxication manslaughter and $50,000 for intoxication assault — were revoked by Stevens in January 2013 when McBride tested positive for amphetamines.
The scene of the July 2012 accident was littered with debris and wrecked vehicles, effectively shutting down Interstate 10 in both directions on the Beaumont side of the Neches River Bridge after McBride allegedly passed another vehicle illegally on the eastbound, right-hand shoulder. According to witnesses on the scene, McBride’s white pickup truck was clipped by an unknown vehicle as he attempted to pass it. Witnesses said McBride’s truck crossed all three lanes of traffic, striking the barrier wall and eventually sending his truck’s brush guard careening into oncoming traffic, where it met the Roussel vehicle.
Each of Amber’s family members addressed McBride face-to-face Monday, including Amber’s father Jimmy Givens, her mother, Melba Braud and Amber’s 12-year-old sister. Perhaps the most powerful and emotional testimony, however, was that of Amber’s husband.
“Right after the accident, for 11 minutes, my wife was still alive,” said Ryan Roussel, never taking his eyes off the shackled McBride. “I was in the car with her. I was severely injured and I didn’t even know it, because all I could see was her.”
Ryan went into graphic detail regarding his wife’s last few minutes as McBride dropped his head, taking his eyes away from the heartbroken man and widower.
“All I could see was the blood pouring out of her nose and her mouth. All I could see was her not responding to me,” Ryan said. “I did everything in my power to try and revive her and make her listen to me and tell her that I needed her and my children needed her.”
Amber Roussel was pronounced dead at the scene.
“She never woke up,” Ryan said. “She died before the paramedics even reached the scene.”
Amber’s 12-year-old sister gave emotional testimony, as well, saying she, her mother and Amber were inseparable.
“We were like one big triangle — always together,” she said as her mother stood by sobbing. “Now one part of the triangle is missing. What are we supposed to do now?”
Amber’s father, Jimmy Givens, choked back tears as he addressed McBride. Having taken on the duty of occasionally watching his emotionally shocked grandchildren, Givens told McBride of how difficult it is to see the face of his daughter in each one.
“I really hope you can sleep at night,” he said. “Because it’s difficult for us to sleep at night.”
Melba Braud, Amber’s mother, took empathy with McBride’s family, saying McBride’s own family is now permanently altered, just as Roussel's has been.
“I feel sorry for his family,” she said in between tears. “They’re gonna have to go through horrible times. But you know, her husband is without his wife. Their children are without their mother. And I’m without my daughter.”