A Lenoir City man with four previous DUIs was sentenced to 22 years in prison Friday, Nov. 8, for a 2018 wreck on Topside Road that killed a Maryville woman and injured her brother.
Chad Eric Sheffer, 42, pleaded guilty Oct. 18 in Blount County Circuit Court to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular homicide by recklessness and aggravated vehicular assault.
Judge Tammy Harrington on Friday accepted an agreement in sentencing Sheffer to 17 years in prison on the aggravated vehicular homicide charge and five years on the aggravated vehicular assault charge, to run consecutively. A six-year sentence on the vehicular homicide by recklessness charge will run concurrently with those.
He must serve at least 60% of the 17-year term and 30% of the five-year term to be eligible for parole.
He also loses the privilege of driving for 11 years and must pay a $5,000 fine and court costs.
Sheffer will receive credit for the time he has spent in jail since April 2018. He was released on bond for part of the time, but that was revoked when he admitted smoking marijuana.
According to police reports Sheffer had been drinking March 23, 2018, when the pickup truck he was driving traveled into the oncoming lane and hit head-on a car a driven Kristy M. Strickland. She died and her brother Thomas Daniele of Maryville was injured.
Sheffer, the only one not wearing a seat belt according to police reports, also was injured. He had previously been convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant four times between 1998 and 2011.
At an earlier hearing multiple witnesses said they smelled alcohol on Sheffer that night. A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer said when asked after the wreck if he had been drinking Sheffer replied, “Yes, too much.”
Harrington accepted the sentencing agreement from Blount County Assistant District Attorney General J. Scott Stuart and Sheffer’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Shawn Graham, before hearing victim impact statements from Strickland’s family members.
The judge explained to the court that she allowed Strickland’s parents to testify while wearing buttons and T-shirts with the woman’s photo and the message “We Love & Miss You Forever Kristy” because she already had completed the sentencing.
Jodie Sparks described her daughter as “a bright and selfless soul,” the glue that held the family together and a devoted mother to a son with special needs. She told the judge that Strickland created a good morning song just for the boy, Phillip.
“Our love will never be enough to fill the hole in his heart where Kristy should be,” Sparks said of her grandson.
Witnesses had testified at an earlier hearing that the car’s doors were jammed after the accident, and Sparks said her son watched his sister die. “All he could do was scream her name,” she said, telling the judge her son has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another of Strickland’s brothers, Allen Daniele, told the judge, “I’m Kristy’s big brother, but I looked up to her.”
Her father, Brian Daniele, said she was devoted not only to her son but also five nieces and nephews who often spent time with Strickland.
“The world lost one of its finest people,” he said. “She always put everybody else first.”
While Strickland’s family members were choked with emotion, Sheffer seemed to show no apparent response during their statements.
Harrington told the dozens of defendants in her courtroom that morning that she hoped the family’s statements would resonate with them if they are dealing with drug or alcohol issues.