Judge calls some of Crumley’s statements ‘appalling’

Marisa Anders Editor

September 25, 2013

David Hugh Crumley was sentenced by Judge Shayne Sexton to serve eight years each for two counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication.

Crumley appeared in Claiborne County Criminal Court on Monday for a sentencing hearing.

Sexton said Crumley’s actions “showed no remorse” since the wreck on Nov. 5, 2011, in which his vehicle collided with a 2011 Toyota Tacoma on State Hwy. 63 near the intersection with Quarry Road, killing both occupants of the truck.

The truck was driven by Ronald P. McNew, 63, of Speedwell. His passenger was Wilma McNew, 63. Ronald McNew died at the scene. Wilma McNew died a short time later.

Crumley, 28, of Ewing, Va., entered a plea of nolo contendere in Claiborne County Criminal Court in June. The plea is commonly known as a “no contest” plea. Nolo contendere allows a defendant in a criminal action to accept the court’s punishment for a crime without having to admit guilt.

The State of Tennessee, represented by Assistant District Attorney General Jared Effler, called two witnesses to testify in Monday’s hearing: Angela Brooks and Karen Bullins, both daughters of the couple killed in the wreck. The couple also had another daughter and a son.

In emotional testimony, both daughters recalled the McNews as loving, hard-working and generous parents.

In a victim impact statement, Brooks told the court that her father had been critically injured at age 18 in Vietnam. He later received a Purple Heart for his valor.

“They taught us to be caring and giving,” she said.

Bullins told the court their mother had survived breast cancer, adding the family would never be the same after the wreck.

“We are still grieving today,” she said.

On behalf of Crumley, his father testified that Crumley suffered injuries from the wreck. He told the court that he suffers from short-term memory loss, headaches, depression and vision problems. He also testified that after the wreck his son had “straightened his life out.”

Many times during his testimony, Crumley’s father broke down in tears.

At an earlier bond hearing, Michael Tiller, a toxicology expert with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab, testified that five drugs were found in Crumley’s system. Tiller said that traces of Xanax, an over-the-counter sleep aid and oxycodone were found in Crumley’s system, in addition to two drugs commonly given to patients in emergency rooms. Crumley did not have a prescription for the oxycodone, according to testimony.

Jacqueline Robinson, a teacher at Elydale Elementary School in Lee County, Va., testified Monday that Crumley had helped her with many things, even working as a substitute teacher for her when needed.

“If I had not talked to him and he had expressed remorse, sympathy and empathy, I would not be here today,” she said.

Crumley took the stand on his own behalf and told the court of the effects the wreck had on him. He said he could remember nothing about the day of the wreck.

His attorney, Mike Hatmaker, asked him if he had anything to say to the family of the victims.

“I can’t remember what happened but I really wish I could go back and change things,” he said. “I wish there was something I could do … I’m truly sorry; I can’t imagine what you all are going through.”

On cross-examination, Effler asked Crumley about his actions since the wreck and if he had been to any bars in that period of time. Effler asked specifically about visits he had allegedly made to Bubba Brew’s with his parents and to Oasis Pizza.

“Just because you go to a bar doesn’t mean you drink. I’m of age … if I’ve gone out, it’s been while my car has been sitting in my driveway,” Crumley replied. “There’s nothing wrong with having a drink as long as you don’t drive.”

“Do you think it is an appropriate display of remorse to go out to bars after you’ve entered a nolo contendre plea in regard to this wreck that took the lives of two Claiborne County citizens?” Effler asked.

“No, but unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to bring them back,” said Crumley. “Am I supposed to stop my life?”

“It would just be nice if you showed some remorse,” Effler concluded.

In his closing argument, Hatmaker told the court Crumley had accepted responsibility, but that he could not plead guilty because he couldn’t remember what happened the day of the wreck. That is why his client entered the nolo contendre plea.

“This is a case that screams probation,” he said.

The sentences had been agreed upon by both sides; the question before the court was how the sentences would be served. Hatmaker was hopeful that Sexton would grant his client alternative sentencing, or probation.

“Some of these statements have been somewhat appalling,” Sexton said when making his ruling. “If wrecking and killing two people cannot make you turn your life around I don’t know what can.”

Sexton then referred to Crumley’s testimony.

“To have the defendant testify, ‘Well, life goes on,’” Sexton said, “sometimes it doesn’t.”

Sexton sentenced Crumley to two concurrent eight-year sentences and he was remanded to the Tennessee Department of Corrections for the service of the sentence. Crumley was ordered to appear Friday at 9 a.m. to be taken into custody.

“I’m pleased with the sentence,” said Effler after the hearing. “I think it went well, according to the law.”

Reach Marisa Anders at manders@civitasmedia.com or 423-626-3222.