Nearly three years after the drunken-driving crash that killed Menisha Vinson, the man who was behind the wheel finally admitted responsibility.
But it took most of the day Wednesday for Casey Smith, 29, to plead guilty to vehicular homicide and reckless aggravated assault in the March 7, 2010, crash.
After the crash, Smith had denied driving the Chevrolet Tahoe that left the road at 6135 Old Dayton Pike and landed in a creek. None of the vehicle's five occupants wore seat belts. Vinson, 31, was ejected and died at the scene.
Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman asked Smith for his plea.
"Are you pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty?" Steelman asked.
After a few seconds' pause and a look to his lawyer, Smith said, "Yes."
Vinson's mother and father were at the hearing but declined to comment. Prosecutor Kate Lavery said it was very important for the family that Smith admit responsibility.
He was sentenced to eight years on the homicide charge but will serve less than a year before being released on supervised probation.
The case seemed similar in some ways to a vehicular homicide guilty plea Monday by Milton Guin III, but very different in others.
Guinn had admitted to emergency workers he'd been drinking beer earlier and that he was texting when his vehicle collided with Vickie Pippin's car, killing her.
Guinn, who had a previous DUI conviction, was sentenced to eight years to serve.
This was Smith's first DUI. Lavery also said prosecutors would have had to prove that he was driving, using testimony and other evidence at trial.
Vinson's husband, Chris Vinson, was injured in the crash. His injuries brought the reckless aggravated assault charge.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...