W.Va. man sentenced to jail time in May 2011 fatal crash

September 13, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A 49-year-old man charged with drunken driving in the May 2011 death of Harry Lee Franks Jr. was ordered during his plea and sentencing hearing Thursday in Berkeley County Circuit Court to serve 365 days in jail on weekends.

David Wayne McDaniel of Inwood, W.Va., pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of driving revoked for driving under the influence and DUI with death.

In addition to the weekend jail time, McDaniel was ordered to complete 500 hours of community service, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, pay $8,214 in restitution and $600 in fines, and be placed on probation for five years.

23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder also ordered McDaniel to reimburse the county for jail costs incurred by his incarceration.

A six-month jail term for the driving revoked conviction was suspended by Yoder, who said he wasn’t happy with any of the sentencing options he had in the case.

Despite the fact that McDaniel’s level of intoxication was found to be more than four times the legal limit after the May 9, 2011, crash, Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Timothy D. Helman told the court that the state’s DUI with death law is narrowly written and requires the state to produce additional evidence to obtain a felony conviction.

Helman said the state had no evidence that McDaniel was speeding or acting reckless when he crashed, killing a passenger in his vehicle, and an accident reconstruction was not performed. Helman previously said there were no skid marks at the crash scene.

McDaniel told the judge he was very sorry and that he missed his friend a lot.

When Yoder asked McDaniel what happened that led to him being charged, McDaniel recalled that he had been drinking “pretty heavily” before he lost control of the pickup he was driving in the 2100 block of Arden Nollville Road.

McDaniel said he and Franks, 46, drank alcohol at his brother’s house and then went out to a bar to drink more.

The two men stayed at the bar until it closed and then went to a family member’s house before McDaniel “exercised poor judgment” and got behind the wheel again at Franks’ request, defense attorney B. Craig Manford and McDaniel said in court.

Yoder said his concern was to protect the public from McDaniel in the future and concluded that the extended jail sentence of weekends in jail, combined with five years of probation, would at least provide some assurance that McDaniel would not hurt someone else in that time frame.

“I don’t feel like I necessarily have the tools (in this case),” Yoder said.

McDaniel could have been sentenced to serve a two- to 10-year prison sentence for a felony DUI with death conviction, according to Helman.

McDaniel’s blood-alcohol content after the crash was .336, Helman said Thursday. He also noted McDaniel had a history of alcohol abuse and related traffic offenses. 

The legal limit is .08.

McDaniel, in an interview with police, allegedly admitted he consumed several beers and whiskey over a three- to four-hour span at a bar before the crash happened, the documents said.

Police responded to investigate at 3:21 a.m. The men were riding in a Ford F-150, which went off the road into a ditch and overturned, police have said. The vehicle came to rest on its wheels.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed against McDaniel as a result of the fatal crash is pending in Berkeley County Circuit Court, according to court records.

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