Crime

‘We will never be the same’: Wrong-way drunk driver sentenced in fatal I-75 crash

At a sentencing hearing Tuesday, friends and family of Marci Thompson wore buttons with a picture of her and her cat, Ping. She was killed by a drunk driver on June 3, 2017.
At a sentencing hearing Tuesday, friends and family of Marci Thompson wore buttons with a picture of her and her cat, Ping. She was killed by a drunk driver on June 3, 2017. wcrenshaw@macon.com

Following a wrenching, emotional hearing, a former corrections officer was sentenced to prison in a wrong-way head-on crash that killed the wife of a Crisp County deputy.

Houston County Superior Court Judge Katherine Lumsden sentenced Donn Kelvin Smith, 27, of Rentz, to serve 12 years in prison and three years on probation in the death of Marci Thompson, 42, on June 3, 2017.

Several members of Thompson’s family, including her husband, parents, sisters and only daughter, gave tearful statements, and all asked for the maximum sentence, which Chief Assistant District Attorney Erikka Williams said was 17 years. Williams asked for 12 years behind bars while defense attorney Bernadette Crucilla asked for 10 to serve. Crucilla said after the hearing that the maximum sentence by her calculation was actually 20 years.

Smith, a former officer at Macon State Prison and a member of the Georgia Army National Guard, was wearing his military uniform and shackled as he pleaded guilty to charges of homicide by vehicle in the first degree, DUI, reckless driving and hit and run.

Shortly after midnight on the date of the accident, he drove onto Interstate 75 headed north in the southbound lanes, side swiped one vehicle, then continued for a total of seven miles before hitting Thompson’s car head-on.

She was headed home from her job as a nurse at Summerhill Senior Living, a nursing home in Perry. She suffered burns over a third of her body and had major internal injuries, her family members said. She had six surgeries and held on for 24 hours before she died.

Williams said Smith’s blood alcohol level, taken about an hour after the accident, was .21, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

In speaking to the judge, her relatives said their close-knit family was shattered by the tragedy.

“Our family is still close, but we will never be the same again,” said Thompson’s mother, Vickie Belcher. “Marci was taken from us in a completely senseless and irresponsible act by Mr. Smith.”

Smith’s mother, Bernita Smith, spoke on his behalf as his father stood beside her. She apologized to Thompson’s family and said her son was a good person who made a big mistake.

Donn Smith mostly sat still while Thompson’s family members spoke, though he dabbed his eyes with a tissue at times. But when his mother spoke, he bowed his head and appeared to be sobbing. He finally spoke himself and apologized to Thompson’s family, saying he had a disease that he did not address until after the accident.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said in conclusion, turning toward Thompson’s family.

Weighing against Smith , who has two small children, were his actions after he was released on bond. He visited bars, against the terms of the bond, and his bond was revoked. He has been in jail since. Thompson’s family members said it showed he had no remorse, and Lumsden said it factored into the sentence.

“That says to me we did not get your attention,” Lumsden said.

Also, before he can be released from prison Lumsden ordered that he must complete a substance abuse program. Williams said she couldn’t speculate on when he might be paroled, but she said she believes he will have to serve at least four years before he is even considered.

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