An Evans man was sentenced to prison Thursday after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide for a 2010 wreck that killed a Grovetown woman.
Daniel Edwin Morales, 40, pled guilty to first degree vehicular homicide related to reckless driving and serious injury by vehicle in connection to the November 2010 wreck in which Phyllis Autry, 54, died and her husband, Paul Autry, was seriously injured.
Superior Court Judge J. David Roper sentenced Morales to 15 years in prison followed by 15 years on probation, per a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.
“I apologize with all my heart,” Morales told Mrs. Autry’s family at the hearing. “I’ve wished so many times that I could have taken her place.”
At about 9:30 a.m. on November 20, 2010, the Autrys were driving east on Washington Road near Blanchard Road, when they were hit head on by Morales. He was driving between 74 and 94 miles per hour on the wrong side of the road.
“There were many, many injuries,” Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus said, adding that the Autrys both had to be extricated from the wreckage. “It was chaos out there that day.”
Morales’ Volkswagon ricocheted into another truck, where the driver and passenger were not injured.
He was indicted on nine charges including vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, driving under the influence of drugs, reckless driving and driving too fast for conditions.
Mrs. Autry died at the hospital from blunt force injuries including a torn aorta. Her husband was seriously injured, sustaining numerous fractures. He is still unable to walk and requires more surgeries.
Mr. Autry spoke at the sentencing hearing, where he asked Roper to give Morales the maximum 30-year prison sentence.
“My (physical) pain is nothing,” Mr. Autry said. “Phyllis was more than my wife, she was my hero. ... She was my best friend. When she died, I died.”
The couple would have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary three days after the wreck.
Morales’ attorney, Pete Theodocion, said that though Morales had marijuana and amphetamines in his system at the time of the wreck, drugs did not impair his driving. Because he’d stayed up late the night before, Theodocion said Morales feel sleep at the wheel.
“He shouldn’t have been behind the wheel in that state,” Theodocion said, adding that Morales takes responsibility for the wreck by agreeing to the plea.
As part of the plea agreement, he have to pay the restitution above and beyond what medical costs his insurance company would pay to Mr. Autry. That amount will be determined at a later hearing.
Morales was originally released on bond. He was arrested and held without bond in September 2011, when he was arrested for driving about 100 miles per hour while under the influence on Interstate 20.