Guilty of Felony DUI; 15 Years in Prison

I have no doubt that you did not plan on this to happen but you did illegal drugs and your doctors did not know to tell you the dangers. This sentence will still give you some light for the future, but there has to be consequences. There has to be concern for the highway workers that must be protected. They have dangerous work and don’t get paid enough.” -- Judge Couch to Mrs. Tackett during sentencing

Pamela Tackett, of Gray Court, was found guilty at trial this afternoon (July 18) in Laurens County w-Solicitor's Office Statement. 

 

She was sentenced as follows:

 

Felony dui resulting in death -- 15 years 

Felony dui with great bodily injury -- 7 years 

Child endangerment -- 7 years 

 

All sentences to run concurrently. 

 

Statement from Solicitor Stumbo:

 

"We’re satisfied that, after two trials, the defendant is finally being held accountable for her actions and the horrific loss of life in this case.  We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our hard-working state troopers to keep our roads safe from impaired drivers." -- Solicitor David M. Stumbo

 

NEWS RELEASE:

 

Gray Court woman sentenced to 15 years for I-385 crash that killed one highway worker, injured another

 

Laurens — A Gray Court woman was sentenced Thursday afternoon to 15 years in prison after a Laurens County jury returned a verdict of guilty on three charges related to the death of a highway worker and the severe injury of another, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Friday morning.

Pamela Michelle Tackett, 32, was found guilty of felony driving under the influence resulting in death, felony driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury, and on one count of child endangerment following a four-day trial in the Judicial Center at Hillcrest Square.

Circuit Judge Roger Couch then handed down a sentence of 15 years in prison on the charge of felony DUI resulting in death and seven years in prison on each of the other two charges. 

The sentences are to run concurrently, but the defendant will not be eligible for parole and must serve a minimum of 85% of the 15-year sentence.

"We’re satisfied that, after two week-long trials, the defendant is finally being held accountable for her actions and the horrific loss of life in this case,” Stumbo said following the trial. “We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our hard-working state troopers to keep our roads safe from impaired drivers."

Just before 10:00 a.m. on March 28, 2018, Tackett was driving her 2012 Chevrolet SUV north along Interstate 385 near mile marker 19. Multiple orange state Department of Transportation signs warning drivers of road work ahead were staggered along the roadway leading up to the incident location. 

According to eyewitnesses, Tackett’s vehicle veered erratically to the left and struck the cable barrier in the median along with the victims’ parked work vehicle before striking two workers who were repairing sections of the cable barrier, 28-year-old Zechariah Ivey and 23-year-old J.C. Howell. Both men were seriously injured as a result and were transported by helicopter and ambulance to area hospitals for treatment. Ivey succumbed a week later to his injuries.

Deputy Solicitor Warren Mowry and Special Assistant Solicitor R. Knox McMahon prosecuted the case for the state, with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Walter Bentley and Victim Advocate Rhetta Christian. 

Tackett was represented by David F. Stoddard of the Anderson County Bar.

Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with the South Carolina Highway Patrol in both the March 2019 trial which resulted in a hung jury and this week’s trial which resulted in convictions on all counts. The Solicitor also spoke highly of the patience and resolve of the surviving victim and both victims’ families who have endured much suffering as a result of this tragedy.

 

 

WLBG: Retrial Underway for Pamela Tackett; March 2018 Felony DUI charge from wreck on I-385.

 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - WLBG on-line

Original Reporting by Iva Cadmus

 

The re-trial of Pamela Tackett began just after lunch yesterday afternoon, under Judge Couch from Spartanburg. She’s charged with two counts of Felony DUI and one count of Child Endangerment from a March 28th, 2018 incident when the vehicle she was driving, with her small niece in the back seat, ran off I-385 into the median, struck a cable barrier, then plowed into a work truck from Bagwell Fencing of Spartanburg. 

Two workmen were struck. 28-year-old Zacheriah Ivey of Cowpens died a few days later. John Howell of Woodruff was also seriously injured but survived.

This past March, a first trial for Ms. Tackett ended in a mistrial being declared after the jury reported it could not reach a verdict.

Yesterday, Special 8th Circuit Assistant Solicitor R. Knox McMahon told the jury that the defendant failed the sobriety test at the scene. He said this was not due to alcohol consumption but that she was found to be on five different prescription medicines which had warning labels on them saying not to drive or operate machinery. He said she also had had traces of marijuana in her system.

Defense attorney David Stoddard of Anderson began his opening arguments telling the jury that Tackett suffers for some type of mental illness, similar to ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,’ and that a toxicologist said that her medication may have not been at a level that could impair her. He said the label on the medication said it may not will cause impairment. Anderson said Tackett took the marijuana for migraines the night before and that the level of it in her system was minimal.

The first witness for the prosecution had also testified back in March. Diane Conte indicated she was driving from West Columbia to work in Anderson as a public health specialist and saw the defendant’s car, “far behind me driving at various speeds and swerving through lanes.” She said she ended up on the shoulder to avoid her, then moments later came upon the wreck, just after it happened. She said she tried to assist the victims. The defense spent very little time cross-examining Ms. Conte.

A Simpsonville resident testified that she saw the accident happen, then crossed the traffic lanes to the scene, saying she feared for the life of the deceased victim when she saw him. “The other victim was screaming in pain, and his screaming was what I remembered. He was in agony it was nightmarish.” The second witness added, “I thought the defendant was talking to someone, I looked inside and asked her if she was ok, and then noticed the little girl in the back seat, the defendant never even turned around to look at the child. The little girl to me seemed to be in shock, she never uttered a word, never shed a tear, nothing.”

A Chicago area resident who testified in March was unable to be here. His testimony was read yesterday with Solicitor’s Investigator Walter Bentley in the witness chair, acting on behalf of the witness. This told of observing the defendant driving erratically. The transcript said as they approached the wreck scene they saw “a man flying in the air and landing on the highway in front of us.”

The opening day’s final witness was Greenville Medical Examiner, Dr. Ward, who described the injuries of the deceased victim, as requested by the Laurens County Coroner. The second day of the new trial for Pamela Tackett was to continue today.

 

Several Testify in 2nd Day of Felony DUI Re-Trial

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

 

Multiple witnesses for the prosecution took the stand yesterday in the second day of the Felony DUI retrial of Pamela Tackett. Greenville Police Officer Mike Gabrelli was the first. As a Highway Patrol Officer, he was the first officer to arrive at the scene on I-385 March 28th, 2018. He told of performing a field sobriety test on Ms. Tackett, demonstrating the test on Assistant Solicitor Mowry. He said after taking her under arrest, she complained of chest pains, so he had her taken to hospital, requesting a drug recognition expert to meet her there due to suspicion of her being under the influence. A bodycam video from the officer was shown. In cross examination, the defense questioned Officer Gabrelli about his training and for a repeat of the sobriety test demonstration.

EMT Benjie Cannon was called to the witness stand to explain treatment given to the defendant and her niece during the transfer of the defendant and her niece from the wreck scene to the hospital. GHS Nurse Dana Nemr then testified about performing the drawing of blood requested by law enforcement. The defense cross-examined her as to whether a “mini-stroke” could be detected on the defendant.

Highway Patrol Lance Corporal Charles Terry took the stand and answered prosecution questions about his experience in drug recognition. He went to the hospital for the drug tests on the defendant. He noted some steps not administered due to her being in a hospital bed. He testified of observations he made such as droopy eyelids and involuntary eye jerking, also noting pulse and blood pressure below average.

SLED Forensic Toxicologist Kelly Bugdon testified of drug test results, noting side effects that can lead to drowsiness and/or confusion and possible hallucinations. Under cross-examination by the defense, she said that some constant users of drugs can build up a tolerance and may be able to drive ok.

The final witness called yesterday by the state was John Howell, the worker struck in the median that day in June, 2018 who survived. Questioned about his injuries, Mr. Howell said he was in the hospital for three weeks, then bedridden at home for more weeks, followed by more weeks spent using a wheelchair.

The retrial of Pamela Tackett on charges of Felony DUI, Felony DUI with Death and Child Endangerment continues in its third day today.

 

Defense Testimony Begins in Tackett Trial

Thursday, July 18, 2019

 

Three members of a Highway Patrol Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team yesterday told about their investigation of the March, 2018 wreck for which Pamela Tackett is being tried on two Felony DUI charges. They testified that there were no skid marks at the scene of the fatal crash and that the 2012 vehicle reportedly driven by Ms. Tackett did not have auto-breaking available at the time, previously indicated as a feature of her car.

The final witness for the prosecution was Dr. Demetra Garvin, entered as an expert witness in toxicology. She reported examining the defendant’s blood, looked at all the videos of Tackett’s sobriety tests and her pharmacy records. Dr. Garvin said that in her expert opinion the defendant should not have been behind the wheel the day of the accident.

After lunch, the first defense witness was Joseph Tackett, husband of the defendant, who said the car that his wife was driving at the time of the accident had auto braking. Under cross examination by the state, Tackett indicated his wife’s 2012 car was not purchased new. Questioned if he realized the auto breaking feature came out in 2013, he responded he still believed his wife’s car had that safety feature. An auto manual presented by the defense, but not allowed into evidence, was reportedly for a 2013 model.

The defendant, Pamela Tackett took the stand after her husband, and testified that her migraines are only helped by smoking marijuana. She went on to describe taking her prescription drugs the morning of the accident.

She testified that she had taken these drugs for years and never had a problem driving. She said that the morning of the accident, she felt great, was talking and singing with her niece. She said that’s the last she remembered until the crash.

Under cross-examination, she said she has sleep apnea but doesn’t use a C-Pap because it makes her claustrophobic. Tackett testified that she told the officer before her sobriety test that she has weak ankles, bad balance and was distracted by what happened to her niece, and that is why she failed the roadside sobriety test. The state asked why she wasn’t distracted over hitting the victims, with one loudly screaming, but she said she thought it was her niece screaming.

The defense reportedly has another witness to testify today, then both sides are expected to present their closing arguments.

 

Tackett Guilty – Sentenced to 15 Years

Friday, July 19, 2019

The jury in the trial of Pamela Tackett returned to the courtroom just before 4:00 o’clock Thursday afternoon with verdicts of Guilty for all three charges.

After hearing from the families on both sides of the case, Judge Couch pronounced sentences totaling 15 years in jail. The charges came from March 28th of 2018 when her car ran off Interstate 385 into the median, struck a work truck and two men working in the median.

On the guilty verdict for Felony DUI with Death, regarding fatal injuries to 28-year-old Zacheriah Ivey of Cowpens, Judge Couch sentenced Ms. Tackett to fifteen (15) years. On the guilty verdict on the charge of Felony DUI, for the injuries to John Howell of Woodruff, Tackett was sentenced to seven (7) years. Another seven-year (7) sentence was handed down for the guilty ruling on the Child Endangerment charge. Mrs. Tackett’s niece was riding in the rear seat of her car at the time of the fatal wreck. All sentences are to be served concurrently.

Before Judge Couch handed down the sentences, Pamela Tackett told him, “I don’t know what happened that day. I had no idea that this could happen taking my prescription medicines!” Her husband told the judge that he was concerned about her mental health, and that she at one time wanted to take her own life.

Victim John Howell’s mother told the judge, of Mrs. Tackett, “She chose her actions and made the wrong choices, and my son suffered for it.” A family member of the late Zacheriah Ivey, Jeremy Case, described the late Mr. Ivey as a kind man who left behind a five-year-old son who keeps asking when his daddy will be coming home.

Assistant Solicitor Warren Mowry told the judge that Ms. Tackett was not only taking prescription drugs but was taking marijuana, which is still illegal in this state, saying she did not tell that to her health care providers so they could not warn her of the risks.

When pronouncing sentence, Judge Couch told Mrs. Tackett, “I have no doubt that you did not plan on this to happen but you did illegal drugs and your doctors did not know to tell you the dangers. This sentence will still give you some light for the future, but there has to be consequences. There has to be concern for the highway workers that must be protected. They have dangerous work and don’t get paid enough.”

Following the trial, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo said, “We’re satisfied that, after two trials, the defendant is finally being held accountable for her actions and the horrific loss of life in this case. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our hard-working state troopers to keep our roads safe from impaired drivers.”

There was a hitch in the trial on this final day. Dr. Goodbar of Presbyterian College was to be an expert witness for the defense, but the judge was informed that he was not available and would not be back in town for another day. The caused a half-hour halt to the trial. This was resolved with the court allowing the transcript of Dr. Goodbar’s testimony from the first trial back in March to be used. Just as was the case for a prosecution witness earlier in the week, Solicitor Investigator Walter Bentley took the stand in place of the professor. The transcript repeated Dr. Goodbar’s comments that Tackett’s prescription for her medicine was on the low side of the therapeutic doses.

In closing arguments today, Assistant Solicitor Mowry told the jury that when you think of a DUI, you think of drunk driving, but this is drugged driving, which is someone who has taken enough substance that has impaired their ability to drive, and is no longer a safe driver on the road. He said she drove her vehicle and caused the death of a victim and injury to another and put a 4-year-old in danger. He reminded them of witness testimony describing her car approaching theirs in an erratic manor, zig-zagging between lanes. When Mr. Mowry reminded the jurors about the signs on the road warning of work in progress, he showed the picture of a truck with bright warnings. He showed the bright work vests worn by the victims.

In closing arguments from the defense, Attorney Stoddard said, “What we see is not always what they are. Remember the burden of proof.” He reminded the jurors that things are not always as they appear. He reminded them of testimony that in her use of these medicines for years, she could have built up tolerance to them.

 

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