Houston & Peach

Perry man pleads guilty to 2013 drag race crash that killed a teenager

Stock photo
Stock photo

Three years and eight months after 17-year-old Colten Winkler was killed in a crash during a drag race just outside of Perry, the driver of the car he was riding in pleaded guilty Wednesday to vehicular homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Danny Ray Wheeler, now 48, was at the wheel of a Ford Mustang on the night of April 21, 2013. Winkler was riding in the front passenger seat during the drag race against a Pontiac Firebird Phoenix.

The cars were headed westbound on Duke Road near Toomer Road and Ga. 224, reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour on the 45-mph road.

Wheeler’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit when he lost control on a curb, traveled about 200 feet off the roadway, struck a fence and a pine tree, then spun another 22 feet before coming to a stop, according to a news release from the Houston County District Attorney’s Office.

Winkler was dead at the scene and another victim, Michael Spence, was seriously injured.

Wheeler, who lost a leg in the crash, also pleaded guilty to serious injury by motor vehicle on Wednesday, the release said. He was sentenced to 30 years, 10 of them in prison, by Chief Judge George Nunn.

“There are no winners in a case like this,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Erikka Williams said in the release. “With the holiday season upon us, we urge everyone to not drink and drive. Incidents like this should never happen in our community. This terrible crash and the injuries and death that resulted were completely preventable.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor