05/09/2007 12:00AM

Norman faces manslaughter charges


Trainer Cole Norman has been charged with manslaughter for his role in a Feb. 5 automobile accident in Hot Springs, Ark., that left an 86-year-old woman dead, according to Terri Harris, chief deputy for Garland County's prosecuting attorney's office.

The accident occurred when Norman, driving his Cadillac Escalade, crossed over the center line while negotiating a curve and hit a Ford Explorer driven by Virginia Heath head-on, according to an accident report. Heath died three hours later.

The manslaughter charge falls under the category of vehicular homicide.

"Under Arkansas law, it's a Class C felony, with a punishment range of no less than three and no more than 10 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, or a fine of $10,000, or a combination of both fine and confinement," said Harris.

Norman, 38, was expected to turn himself in Wednesday or Thursday, said Harris. He then will have to appear in Garland County circuit court to enter his plea. Jamie Pratt, the attorney representing Norman, did not return a phone call on Wednesday.

Norman's blood was drawn following the early afternoon collision and processed at the Arkansas Crime Lab.

"There was no alcohol, but he had prescription painkillers in his blood system," said Harris.

Norman held valid prescriptions for the medications, she said.

Norman also has been named in a wrongful death suit stemming from the accident, according to a report last month in the Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs. The suit was brought by Randall Parsley, a nephew of Heath, and seeks damages for Heath's death.

Norman, who for years has operated one of the nation's winningest stables, has not started a horse since Feb. 11. Less than a week later, he gave up his stable to focus on personal issues and his owners transferred the majority of horses that were in his care to Jorge Lara, his longtime assistant.

In March, Norman began serving a six-month suspension for a medication infraction incurred by one of his starters in Louisiana.