A Tennessee truck driver who killed two people in a 2016 crash on Route 17 in the town of Washington two years ago will serve 25 years in prison.
Randall Weddle, 55, of Tennessee was sentenced Friday following a weeklong trial in January, at which a Knox County Jury convicted Weddle on 15 counts, including two counts of manslaughter and three counts of aggravated driving under the influence.
Justice William Stokes on Friday issued a total sentence of 30 years in prison with all but 25 years suspended. The sentence will be followed by four years of probation.
Weddle was carrying a load of lumber on March 18, 2016, when he crashed into oncoming traffic, striking two cars and sending one into a field where it burst into flames.
Christina Torres-York, 45, of Warren and Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head died in the crash.
Blood tests taken following the incident show that Weddle was intoxicated at the time of the crash. He also told investigators that he was sick and on prescription medication. In the days leading up to the crash, Weddle also manipulated his driving logs to make it appear he was driving fewer hours than he actually was.
According to the state’s sentencing memo, Weddle has 48 prior convictions of motor vehicle crimes, including 12 operating under the influence convictions in four different states. At the time of the crash, Weddle’s license was suspended in Louisiana and revoked in Virginia — where he was living with his wife.
“I am completely stunned with Mr. Weddle’s record,” Stokes said.
Despite the suspensions, he was able to obtain a Tennessee license, which has an address of “a buddy’s house he stayed at when he was having marital problems,” according to the memo.
Stokes said he was “genuinely mystified” that Weddle was able to obtain a license in Tennessee.
Given that Weddle was driving a “massive projectile object” while impaired, Stokes said that it “is in the court’s view that this is one of the most serious ways you can commit manslaughter.”
“It’s a wonder, frankly, that four people weren’t killed that day,” he said.
The state asked for a total sentence of 50 years in prison with all but 40 years suspended and four years probation. The defense asked for a sentence of 20 years with all but nine years suspended with a four year probation period.
While the sentence tilts toward the “historically high” spectrum of sentences for manslaughter, Stokes said that Weddle’s “staggering” driving and criminal record, along with the fact that he was driving a fully loaded tractor trailer while impaired, were aggravating factors in his sentencing decisions.
A manslaughter conviction carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence. Prior to trial, the prosecution offered a plea deal with a sentence of 30 years with all but 20 suspended, but the defense rejected the deal.
The courtroom was filled Friday with family and friends of the victims, who detailed how their lives have been affected by the crash.
Torres-York was due to graduate in May from a program that would certify her as a substance abuse counselor. Last year, her daughter gave birth to what would be her first grandchild.
Fowles, a Navy veteran, helped nurse his wife through cancer. Stokes called him “the epitome of a good man.”
“There are so many victims. There is so much hurt, it ripples everywhere,” Stokes said. “The enormity of it simply cannot be grasped.”
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