Ryne Allen Willoughby, 28, was charged in the death of Chad Moltzan, 46, of Rockmart. Moltzan was killed after a 1999 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck suddenly veered off I-20 near Chapel Hill Road in Douglasville.
The vehicle was reportedly going west in the fast lane when it veered sharply to the right and swerved across three lanes of traffic. It then struck a guardrail and went airborne, turning as it crashed into a ravine.
Willoughby apparently walked out of the woods with non-life-threatening injuries.
He appeared in a Douglas County court Tuesday charged with homicide by vehicle, driving too fast for conditions, driving in the gore, failure to maintain lane and improper lane change. Magistrate Judge Barbara Caldwell set bond at $20,000 for vehicular homicide and $1,000 each for the remaining charges.
Solicitor General Matthew Krull told the judge the district attorney’s office declined prosecuting the vehicle homicide as a felony so the case was transferred to his office to prosecute as a misdemeanor.
“Originally Mr. Willoughby was investigated by Officer (Rob) Lane of the Douglasville Police Department,” Krull said. “He admitted taking methadone that morning. His blood results from the GBI came back that he did have methadone in his system. Based on conversations the district attorney’s office has had, they declined prosecution as a felony.”
Willoughby was reported to be under methadone treatment for drug abuse.
“Based on witness statements at the scene, he was driving westbound on I-20,” Krull said. “He had a co-worker in his vehicle with him — Mr. Moltzan — and they were coming from a job site down on I-285.”
Three of the witnesses who were driving behind the vehicle told authorities the truck appeared to veer off the roadway for no apparent reason and crashed into the ravine, which is next to the West Pines Golf Club.
“Mr. Moltzan was found to be deceased at the scene,” Krull said. “Mr. Willoughby was transported to the medical center in Atlanta.”
The defendant has no criminal history, according to his attorney, Mac Pilgrim. His driving record shows a speeding ticket in 2007 and a 2001 charge for possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
Family members of the defendant and victim were also in court, but Moltzan’s mother was the only one to speak.
“I guess I am wondering why it isn’t a felony?” she said.
As a condition of bond, Caldwell ordered Willoughby to enroll in a substance abuse program with the condition that he not be released until it is set up. She also ordered he undergo a psychological evaluation before his release.