CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Community News Network

July 19, 2013

Police officer driving 104 mph before fatal wreck pleads guilty

DALTON, Ga. — A north Georgia police officer who was driving at more than 100 mph when he slammed his patrol car into a newspaper carrier's vehicle, killing the driver, accepted a plea agreement Thursday that keeps him out of prison but prevents him from ever working in law enforcement again.

The family of Leon Thurman, the 70-year-old Daily Citizen carrier killed in the crash, agreed with the sentence and said Thursday they were "glad it was over."

Former Varnell, Ga., police officer James Smith pleaded guilty to first degree vehicular homicide and reckless driving. In addition to a lifetime ban on working in law enforcement, Smith's sentence includes 10 years of probation, a $2,500 fine and 300 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said information from the black box in Smith's patrol car showed he was driving at 104 mph when he slammed into Thurman’s Dodge Neon early on March 5, 2012, while Thurman was delivering papers.

An internal investigation last year showed Smith was not on an emergency call when the crash happened, Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant said. Smith resigned during the investigation.

Smith said in court Thursday that he had "no words to express that would ease the loss." He said he knew he knew the Thurman family before the crash.

"I loved Mr. Thurman and Virginia Thurman (his wife)," he said, addressing the family members who were in court. "I accept my part in this."

District Attorney Bert Poston said the Thurman family preferred the plea agreement to a lengthy trial.

"They wanted to get it over with, to get closure on it and to get an admission of guilt from (Smith), that he acknowledged his guilt formally and publicly," Poston said.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Thurman’s wife and daughter against the city of Varnell was settled last year for an undisclosed amount. 

Details for this story were provided by The Daily Citizen in Dalton, Ga.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo