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Driver gets prison sentence in deadly fatal crash

November 25, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Family members of a man who died in a head-on collision in March, 2002, and another man seriously injured in the wreck addressed the driver in court Monday, telling him he has not earned their forgiveness.

Daniel Scott Pearrell, 28, of Berkeley Station Road in Martinsburg, agreed two months ago to plead no contest to one felony count of driving under the influence causing death.

His sentencing hearing was delayed until Monday so probation workers could try to find family members of the victims, who at that time had not been located.

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Several came forward after seeing newspaper coverage about the case, said Assistant Prosecutor Betsy Giggenbach.

Circuit Judge David Sanders listened to those family members, along with Pearrell and his wife, before sentencing Pearrell to serve one to 10 years in prison.

The wreck happened March 30, 2002, at around 9:15 p.m. as Pearrell headed south on U.S. 11 North in a 1971 Chevrolet Blazer. Pearrell crossed the center line and collided head-on with a 1990 Geo Storm.

Killed in the wreck was Juan Francisco Tejeda, 20, who was a passenger in the Geo. The driver of the Geo, Ermain Espinoza Rivera, age unknown, was seriously injured and has since returned to Mexico, family members said.

"I feel very sorry for you but I can't forgive you," said Maria Dominguez, Rivera's aunt. "Only God can forgive you."

Dominguez said that as a result of the wreck, her nephew is crippled and will remain bedridden for the rest of his life.

Rivera and Tejeda had come to the United States from Mexico to work and try to help their families back home. They arose each morning around 4 or 5 a.m. and worked until 10 p.m., Dominguez said.

Dominguez and family members of Tejeda said they were especially bothered by the fact that Pearrell has not stopped drinking.

A week and a half ago, Pearrell's bail was revoked after a West Virginia State Police trooper found Pearrell had been drinking at Pikeside Bowl, a bowling alley.

Pearrell's wife, Carrie Pearrell, 23, said her husband had a glass or two of beer that night, but otherwise has been sober. He did not drive that night, she said on the stand.

She testified that she and her husband have three children, one of whom will die if he does not have heart surgery. Carrie Pearrell asked that her husband be granted home confinement so he could continue working. He had health insurance through his job, she said.

When he took the stand, Daniel Pearrell said that he has had to bury one of his children.

"There's nothing I can say to the family that's going to make anything right," Pearrell said. "Nothing but time's going to heal those wounds."

Not a day passes when Pearrell does not think of the wreck, he said. He added that he wants to be a good father, good husband, seek whatever help is needed and be a good citizen.

Speaking to Pearrell, Sanders said a lot of families have suffered as a result of the wreck and that both sides presented equitable arguments.

"You really resolved it yourself" by being involved in an alcohol-related matter, Sanders told Pearrell.

Outside of the courtroom, Pearrell's attorney, Harley Wagner, said he believed the fact that Pearrell relapsed and used alcohol influenced Sanders' decision to impose a prison sentence, rather than home confinement.

"You just pray that somewhere down the line there's healing for all the families," Wagner said.

As part of the plea bargain, three additional charges filed against Pearrell, including a count of DUI causing injury, were dismissed.

When state troopers arrived at the accident scene, Tejeda and Rivera were trapped inside the Geo. Both were flown to Virginia for treatment, but Tejeda was pronounced dead just after midnight.

Pearrell, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from his Blazer. A blood sample showed that Pearrell's blood-alcohol content at the time was .226, more than twice the legal limit of .10.

Pearrell will be eligible for parole after serving one year in prison.

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