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Archive for Tuesday, November 14, 1995

MAN SENTENCED IN FATAL ACCIDENT

November 14, 1995

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A Lawrence man whose girlfriend died in a car-train accident in March was sentenced Monday to up to 18 months in the Douglas County Jail on misdemeanor charges stemming from her death.

Vernon C. Smith Sr., 52, 1925 R.I., displayed no emotion as District Judge Paula Martin sentenced him to six months in jail for driving under the influence of alcohol and one year in jail for vehicular homicide. The sentences are to run consecutively.

Smith also was ordered to pay a $500 fine for the DUI charge, complete an alcohol treatment program and pay court costs and fees.

Martin, who gave no indication of when she might consider a request for parole, granted Smith work-release beginning Nov. 20, provided he can show proof of employment and arrange transportation to and from his job.

Before imposing the sentence, Martin said she realized Smith didn't intend for his conduct to harm anyone. She also said she believed he felt remorse and a loss because of the death of Clara Patterson, 75.

"What you do perhaps fail to comprehend is the seriousness of drunk driving," Martin said. "... You need to assume responsibility for your actions and the consequences of your actions."

Authorities say Smith's blood-alcohol content was .197 percent -- more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent -- the evening of March 13 when he drove his car onto the Union Pacific tracks near Seventh and Locust.

Testimony at earlier court hearings indicated the car became caught and that Smith made an unsuccessful attempt to free the Ford Thunderbird before it was struck by a westbound Union Pacific freight train pulling 58 cars.

Smith was outside the car when it was struck and escaped uninjured. Patterson, a passenger in the car, remained in the car and was killed in the collision.

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