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A Hampton man responsible for a 2011 car accident that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old boy will serve 10 years in prison.
Gary Jerome Turner was driving seven people in his 1997 Ford minivan when he veered off John Tyler Highway in James City County on Aug. 8, 2011.
The minivan rolled several times and struck a dump truck. All of the passengers, ranging in age from 2 months to 17 years, were injured in the accident and 14-year-old Brashawnta Brooks was killed.
After being apprehended in Florida in October 2014, Turner pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including maiming while driving under the influence, reckless involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence, manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, driving with improper brakes and two counts of child abuse.
During his two-day trial last March, Turner saw all three driving under the influence charges dropped. Though he was found to have a small amount of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, in his system at the time of the crash, Judge Michael McGinty ruled it was impossible to say whether that quantity of the substance affected his ability to drive.
Over the course of Turner’s two-day trial, 24 witnesses were brought forward to testify. Turner was ultimately found guilty of felony involuntary manslaughter, felony child abuse, felony child neglect and misdemeanor reckless driving.
When Turner reappeared before the court Wednesday for sentencing, Commonwealth’s Attorney Cathy Black made the case that he was lacking in remorse for what he had done.
“It is his belief that he is the true victim in this case,” Black said, going on to cite a letter Turner submitted with his pre-sentence report in which he placed blame for the accident on a mechanical issue with the car and described his conviction as a miscarriage of justice.
Turner’s attorney argued that while tragic, the events surrounding Brooks’ death were an accident and therefore his sentence should be lenient.
McGinty ultimately sentenced Turner to one year with all time suspended for the misdemeanor reckless driving charge, five years with four years suspended for the child neglect charge, 10 years with nine years suspended for the child abuse charge and 10 years with two years suspended for involuntary manslaughter. This leaves Turner with a total of 10 years to serve.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Turner’s attorney indicated he plans to appeal the decision.