“You made a wife a widow,” judge tells man at sentencing hearing
A 42-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for vehicular homicide and related traffic offenses in a 2016 crash in which he was fleeing a Houston County sheriff’s deputy.
Vernon Jerome Gibson was sentenced by Superior Court Judge G.E. “Bo” Adams to the maximum of 15 years for the vehicular homicide and five years for other traffic offenses.
Bruce Snyder, 66, of Warner Robins, died at the Medical Center, Navicent Health, 19 days after the three-vehicle crash on Nov. 6, 2016. Snyder was a husband, father, Sunday school teacher and retired, longtime civilian worker at Robins Air Force Base.
His wife of 44 years, Linda Snyder, stood with their two sons and a daughter-in-law before the judge and pleaded for the maximum sentence.
“My words will not be adequate to describe the unbearable pain I felt after Bruce’s death,” she said. “However, here are some words that I wrote in my journal after he died to describe the pain .... It hurts from my head to my toes and everything in between. It hurts.
“Every fiber of your being screams that it can’t be so, but it is. You can’t pray it away, pretend it away or cry it away. The pain is always there. The bottom fell out and you’re in a pit ... There’s a large hole in my heart. A part of me died when Bruce died.”
She said the family found comfort in knowing Snyder was in heaven.
Gibson’s attorney Doron Dvorak pleaded for mercy, arguing Gibson is remorseful and took responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty. The “first words out of (Gibson’s) mouth” upon arrest, Dvorak said, were, “Was everybody who was in the accident OK?”
Dvorak asked for 10 years in prison — not for Gibson to go “scot-free” or for Gibson to get a “slap on the wrist.” Dvorak sought a chance at rehabilitation for Gibson, who is married and has three children.
But Chief Assistant District Attorney Erikka Williams argued Gibson chose to ignore flashing blue lights and sirens and flee from a deputy who tried to pull him over for erratic driving.
Williams said Gibson ran away after the crash, did not check on others involved in the wreck and did not call 911.
Additionally, Gibson had three prior felony convictions, including fleeing from authorities, Williams said.
Adams said he had no recourse but to sentence Gibson to the maximum, noting Gibson was fleeing and he had a prior conviction for the same offense.
Gibson, who cried as Snyder’s widow addressed the judge, did not speak at his sentencing hearing.
After the hearing, Linda Snyder thanked those who had packed the courtroom for their support.