As we finish up Alcohol Awareness Month (April, 2014) we here at onlinealcoholclass.com are seeking to highlight the need to stay out of the car if you have been drinking. Each day we are highlighting yet another fatal incident involving the combination of drinking and driving.
The family of Ben Woodruff knew Thursday morning would be the plea hearing for Scott Spangler, the man who caused the fatal 2013 head on collision, killing the father of two. As reported in www.wbir.com.
"I want to make it clear that I do not hate this man -- although I hate what he did," Joy Woodruff, his sister, said sobbing at Spangler, shortly after he pled guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault. The Sevierville man's license was already revoked, after he had five prior DUIs.
"There will never be justice, because you can't bring Ben back," his mother said.
The family is not only upset for what happened to Ben, and his 8-year-old son, Ethan, who's still undergoing constant rehabilitation, but because of his sentence: 20 years in jail, with parole eligibility after serving 30-percent, or six years.
"There's no opportunity to adjust that in any way right now that gives the judge the ability to say 'no.' Six years is not enough," Woodruff's widow, Beth, added.
In August 2013, 50-year-old Spangler drove is car on John Sevier Highway, crossed the center line, and struck the Woodruffs' car. The Woodruffs' car ricocheted toward a third vehicle, critically injuring two other people.
Prosecuting attorney Sarah Keith said Spangler was found urinating on the road and there was drug paraphernalia in his car. He'd been high on crack cocaine and Xanax.
"Are you entering this agreement voluntarily today?" Judge Steven Sword asked Spangler.
"Yes," he responded.
Family Wants Change
After learning of Spangler's parole eligibility, the Woodruffs say 30-percent of the sentence it's not enough.
"There's no opportunity to adjust that in any way right now that gives the judge the ability to say 'no'," Beth Woodruff said. "Six years is not enough."
Even though Spangler had 5 prior DUIs, they're not on the same punishment scale as aggravated vehicular homicide. That means he's eligible for parole after serving that minimum 30-percent of the sentence.
That means, with time already served, his first parole hearing is in 2019.
The family is working with attorney Darren Berg to change the guideline, through new proposed legislation.
"We want to give the option for the trial judge to be able to determine what the release eligibility date would be," Berg said.
It could be introduced next general session that would give that parole determination up to judge.
After five DUIs, and Spangler's already revoked license, the family wants to make sure he learns his lesson.