A Clinton woman has pleaded guilty in a fatal car-pedestrian hit-and-run crash on Clinton Highway in March.
Destany Lynn Cotner, 25, pleaded guilty in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton on Friday to two charges of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and driving under the influence (first offense).
As part of the plea agreement, two other charges were dismissed. Those charges were driving with a suspended or revoked license (first offense) and possession of contraband in a penal facility.
It was a plea by information, meaning Cotner had not yet been indicted by the Anderson County Grand Jury.
Cotner initially told the Tennessee Highway Patrol that she was the driver the night of the crash, but she later changed her story to say her co-defendant Isaac Irwin, 26, also of Clinton, was the driver, according to a narrative filed in the case and attached to warrants.
Cotner received a two-year prison sentence on the conviction of leaving the scene of an accident involving death. As a standard offender, her release eligibility is 30 percent. Her sentence on this felony conviction was suspended, and she will be placed on supervised probation.
She received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in the county jail on the misdemeanor DUI conviction. That sentence is to run concurrently with, or at the same time as, the two-year prison sentence on the felony conviction of leaving the scene. She was ordered to serve 48 hours in jail on the DUI conviction, with credit for about 11 hours served on March 12, and she must report to jail on October 27 to serve the remainder of her DUI sentence.
Cotner must obtain an alcohol and drug assessment within 30 days of her plea or release from jail, and she must comply with the recommendations made in that assessment, according to a criminal judgement filed in Anderson County Criminal Court. Her probation officer will monitor compliance with the results of the alcohol and drug assessment. She must submit to random alcohol and drug screens, watch any and all “DUI Awareness” videos provided by probation officers, complete 24 hours of litter pickup, and attend DUI school, the criminal judgement said.
Her license will be revoked for one year, and Cotner must pay a $350 fine plus court costs.
She must report to court on January 29, 2018, for an update on the status of her court cost payments.
Cotner is expected to truthfully testify against Irwin.
The fatal car-pedestrian crash was reported at about 12:58 a.m. Sunday, March 12, at the intersection of Clinton Highway and West Wolf Valley Road in Claxton, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said in a fatal crash report.
Irwin was driving south on Clinton Highway in a 2006 Pontiac four-door sedan when he struck a pedestrian, Jade T. Richardson, 35, of Jacksboro, in one of the lanes, the THP report said.
Irwin was not injured and he left the crash, but he was located later, the THP said.
A witness provided a description of the fleeing vehicle and the direction of travel, said Mark Lucas, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy.
“A sheriff’s deputy searching for the vehicle located the car a short time later parked at a residence in South Clinton,” Lucas said.
The crash was investigated by THP Trooper Stephen Barclay. In warrants filed in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Clinton on March 29, Barclay said he saw a human body lying in the middle of the southbound lanes when he responded to the crash on March 12.
“The vehicle that struck the pedestrian had fled the scene,” Barclay said.
Witnesses traveling south on Clinton Highway (US 25W) saw a white Pontiac car suddenly stop and turn around in the road, Barclay said. The car had temporary tags in the rear glass window and some type of green tag in the license plate holder. That information was given to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and Clinton Police Department so they could look for the vehicle.
While searching for the car, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chris Conner located a white Pontiac G6 that had a broken windshield at a home on Reynolds Avenue in Clinton, Barclay said. The vehicle had a green tag and temp tag in the rear glass, according to the warrants.
“The windshield was shattered, and there was blood on the left rear door,” Barclay said.
Two people identified as Irwin, who had active warrants, and Cotner were located at the home, according to the narrative included in the warrants.
After being read her Miranda rights, Cotner agreed to talk to Barclay, the THP trooper said.
In response to a question, Cotner said she was driving, Barclay said.
“I hit a deer and went back to my babies daddy’s house,” Cotner said, according to the narrative.
“Cotner was ‘on the nod’ while I was speaking with her and had very slurred speed while she was talking to me,” Barclay said. “Cotner stated that she took Suboxene.”
Cotner, who at that point was identified as the driver, agreed to a blood test for the crash investigation, and she was taken to Tennova North, where blood was drawn, Barclay said.
The trooper then interviewed Irwin.
“Irwin was very impaired while I was speaking with him,” Barclay said. “I said, ‘You are really high.’ He replied, ‘I have been higher.'”
Barclay was later notified that Cotner had changed her story, and she knew they had hit a woman and Irwin had been driving, according to the narrative.
“Cotner stated, ‘He told me that he had priors and would go to prison, and for me, it would just be a misdemeanor,'” Barclay wrote in the narrative.
Cotner did admit to driving down a driveway, the narrative said.
Irwin consented to a blood test at the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton, Barclay said.
“Multiple attempts were made, but due to the severe track marks and past drug usage, EMS was unable to draw the blood,” Barclay said.
Irwin did provide a urine sample for testing, and it tested positive for amphetamine; methamphetamine; “benzos” (benzodiazepines); THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, which is contained in marijuana); and Suboxene, Barclay said.
He said Cotner tried to sneak a Suboxene strip inside the Anderson County jail, but a corrections officer located it in her right front pocket.
At the time of the crash, Irwin’s license was revoked indefinitely for failure to pay a fine in Campbell County on May 2, 2016. Cotner’s license was revoked because of a DUI conviction in Campbell County on May 28, 2015, Barclay said.
“Irwin and Cotner never once asked how the lady was (that) they hit,” Barclay said. “Death notification was made to Jade Richardson’s family, including her 16- and 7-year-old daughter.”
Cotner was initially charged in Anderson County General Sessions Court with leaving the scene of a crash with death, driving on a revoked license, driving under the influence by allowance, and introducing contraband into a penal facility. Those charges were waived to the Anderson County Grand Jury on July 31.
Irwin had been charged in Anderson County General Sessions Court with driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a crash with death, and driving on a revoked license, but those charges have been dismissed. Notes in warrants filed in that case said Cotner, Irwin’s co-defendant, admitted to being the driver.
The current status of Irwin’s case is not clear, and it’s not clear whether the Grand Jury might still indict him. It’s also not clear whether Cotner might now testify that Irwin was the driver. Grand jury proceedings are secret, and indictments aren’t public until a defendant is arrested.
Besides the THP, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, Anderson County EMS, Anderson County Rescue Squad, and Claxton Fire Department also responded to the March 12 crash.
Criminal investigator Bobby Smith interviewed Cotner at the crash site.
Melissa Denny was the prosecutor in Cotner’s case. David Stuart was the defense attorney. Donald R. Elledge was the judge.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See previous story here.
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