Temple Lake Park boater charged with second homicide count

Update in search for suspect in boat accident deaths

TEMPLE - UPDATE (7/10/17): Echoing the comments by attorney Barrett Thomas, the Temple Police Department apologized Monday for releasing misleading information that suggested Jason Bernal's whereabouts were unknown. Temple Police Spokesperson Shawana Neely apologized profusely and said the department would learn from its mistakes and a similar error would not be made again. Read more about the error and apology here.

Bernal turned himself in Monday morning.

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UPDATE (7/8/17): Barrett Thomas, the attorney representing Jason Bernal, claims his client is not on the run and said he has been in contact with prosecutors and law enforcement for two days trying to coordinate Bernal's second booking in jail. As of late Saturday afternoon, neither the attorney, police, nor jail records had confirmed whether or not Bernal had actually surrendered himself yet. Thomas defended his client against rumors that have circulated online -- though have never been reported here -- saying there was currently no evidence his client was intoxicated at the time of the boat tragedy. He also said he believed asking Bernal to post another $200,000 bond, after already posting $150,000 on the first charge, was an unusually high request. Thomas called the whole situation an unspeakable tragedy and said his client, like the victims' family, was overwhelmed with grief. Temple Police had not responded to two requests for information, as of late Saturday afternoon. It was the police department that first notified all local media Friday that it was searching for Jason Bernal and asking for the public's help figuring out his location.

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Original Story:

The Temple Police Department announced Friday that it was searching for Jason Bernal, who was previously charged with criminally negligent homicide in the boating tragedy at Temple Lake Park that killed 4-year-old Kaitlyn Oliver.

Her father, Patrick Oliver, succumbed to his injuries Thursday at Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Temple Thursday. His death led the Bell County District Attorney's Office to issue a second charge of criminally negligent homicide against Bernal, who was previously in the Bell County Jail -- but was released.

In a press release Friday, Temple Police Spokesperson Shawana Neely said Justice of the Peace David Barfield had issued a new arrest warrant for Bernal on the second charge with a suggested bond of $200,000. But, as of Friday afternoon, police said they were no longer sure where Bernal was.

Reached by phone Friday, Neely stopped short of saying Bernal was 'on the run,' but she claimed the warrant was issued Thursday night and police had been unable to locate him since -- adding officers were asking for the public's help locating him through tips.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Bernal was instructed to call the Temple Police Department at 254-298-5500 or call Bell County Crime Stoppers at 254-526-8477. Citizens can also submit anonymous tips by clicking here.

According to a previously released arrest affidavit, a witness told Bernal not to park his boat in that part of Lake Belton because there were children swimming. The witness said the boat was at full throttle at the time of the deadly tragedy.

© 2017 KCEN-TV


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