A woman with a history of drunken driving convictions is accused of causing a fiery three-vehicle crash on Interstate 75 in Fayette County that killed three people late Wednesday and closed the road through Thursday morning rush hour, Lexington police said.
Tammy Marie Bevins Rodriguez, 42, who was fleeing Winchester police when she crashed head-on into two vehicles on I-75, is charged with driving under the influence and without an operator’s license, Lexington police said. Additional charges are pending in Fayette and Clark counties, police said.
Rodriguez has four prior convictions for drunken driving in Pike and Shelby counties, according to state court records. She also has convictions around Kentucky for public intoxication, endangering the welfare of a minor, prostitution, shoplifting and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court records.
In an interview, Winchester police Capt. James Hall said a Clark County sheriff’s deputy spotted Rodriguez allegedly speeding east on Interstate 64 shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday. Rodriguez, behind the wheel of a Ford F-150 truck, was driving erratically, so the deputy tried to stop her, Hall said. Rodriguez then made a U-turn through the interstate’s median and headed west toward Fayette County, he said.
The police cars chasing Rodriguez through Clark County were driving close to 90 mph, but she was outrunning them, Hall said.
“She was crossing all lanes of traffic and traveling at a high rate of speed,” Hall said. “She had already run a couple of vehicles off the road in Clark County.”
Clark County authorities warned Lexington police shortly after 10 p.m. that a speeding vehicle was on its way across the county line on I-64. A crash was reported three minutes later in the northbound lanes of I-75 near the entrance ramp from I-64.
Lexington police said Rodriguez merged onto I-75 north and then made another sudden U-turn, heading south into northbound traffic.
The truck crashed head-on into a Chevrolet Sonic and then hit a Jeep Cherokee, causing the Jeep to roll over, Lexington police said.
One of Rodriguez’s passengers — her sister Debbie Lynn Bevins, 35, of Pikeville — died at the scene, according to the Fayette County coroner. Rodriguez’s other passenger was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Rodriguez suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.
The occupants of the Chevrolet Sonic — driver Taylor Blevins, 26, and passenger Caitlyn Bailey, 20, both of Georgetown — also died at the scene, the coroner’s office said.
The driver of the Jeep Cherokee sustained injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening, police said.
Rodriguez was convicted of drunken driving four times between 2003 and 2011, according to court records.
After her most recent DUI conviction, in April 2011 in Shelby County, Rodriguez spent 20 days in jail and paid $878 in fines and court costs. She also was convicted for endangering the welfare of a minor in that case because of several unrestrained passengers in her vehicle.
In the Shelby County case, Kentucky State Police said Rodriguez — who told them she had been taking anti-anxiety drugs Ativan and Zoloft — drove so erratically that she nearly caused a crash on I-64.
“The subject was driving on the rumble strips and about struck another trooper. The subject then ran off the right shoulder in the grass and then stopped in the middle of the road,” the arresting officer wrote in his report.
The crash, cleanup and investigation of Wednesday’s wreck forced the closure of all northbound lanes of I-75 for about 12 hours. Police diverted traffic into the city on New Circle Road between Winchester Road and North Broadway, causing lengthy delays during Thursday morning’s commute.
“We impact people with traffic and that kind of stuff. But you know, that’s minor compared to the impact that the victims’ families are going through right now,” Lexington police Sgt. David Flannery said later Thursday. “I can’t even imagine.”