A man who caused one of the most horrific vehicle crashes in Warren County history has reportedly continued his life of crime into his 60s.
Donald Robert Upchurch, 63, was arrested this week by the TBI after a marijuana growing operation was discovered on his property. Upchurch is currently a Lebanon resident.
The growing operation at Upchurch’s residence contained approximately 24 plants and 1.5 pounds of finished marijuana.
Upchurch was charged with cultivation of marijuana, possession for resale of a schedule VI drug, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm during a commission of a felony, prohibitive weapons, being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon, and violating his probation.
While Upchurch allegedly continues his life of crime as he approaches senior citizen status, he was a young man in 1978 when he caused a fiery crash that killed a grandfather and three of his grandchildren in Campaign. Upchurch, a 28-year-old McMinnville resident at the time, was charged with four counts of second-degree murder for the crash.
According to crash reports in the July 26, 1978 edition of the Southern Standard, eyewitnesses reported Upchurch was driving erratically on Sparta Highway in the Campaign area. This was when the highway was a two-lane road.
Upchurch’s Jeepster crossed the yellow line and struck a Volkswagen Beetle driven by Manuel Isaac Goodson, 62. Also in the vehicle were his grandchildren Manuel Edward Hall, 15, Sandy Lyn Hall, 10, and Barbie Jo Hall, 9.
Both vehicles erupted in flames, but Upchurch was ejected from his vehicle and not seriously hurt. A passenger in his Jeepster was able to be pulled to safety.
All four occupants of the Volkswagen were not so fortunate as they were trapped in the vehicle as it was engulfed in flames.
According to Warren County court records, Upchurch was convicted following a jury trial of four counts of second-degree murder on Feb. 9, 1979. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for those charges, plus an additional 11 months, 29 days in the county jail for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquors and possession of marijuana.
It was the second fatal accident of Upchurch’s life as he was involved in a crash that killed two people nine years earlier. Upchurch was in a crash in Grundy County that killed Warren County residents Bobby Eller, 19, and Eddie Ware, 23.