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20 years for Virginia drunk driver who killed 4 last year

Two decades behind bars now await a 22-year-old man from Shawneeland, Virginia, who killed four people in a drunk driving accident in 2011.

On June 26 of last year, the Roe family was in their car stopped at a red light on Martinsburg Pike in Frederick County. The Shawneeland man crashed his 1985 pickup truck into the rear of their SUV, causing the Jeep Cherokee to erupt into flames.

According to autopsy results following the grisly incident, however, fire was not the cause of death of two of the vehicle's youngest passengers. An 11-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother experienced blunt force trauma to their heads, both of them dying as a result.

Also losing their lives were the boys' parents, a 49-year-old man and his 31-year-old wife. Medical examiner findings indicated smoke inhalation and thermal injuries as their causes of death.

The family had stopped a gas station prior to the accident; the recently-sentenced drunk driver had also stopped at the same gas station at the same time as the family. Footage from the store shows the convicted man standing just a few spots away from the mother before the crash.

The man exited the gas station shortly after the family, with both vehicles heading out to the same road, Martinsburg Pike.

At the time of the crash, the drunk driver claimed he had tried to stop before slamming into the family's car. However, crash analysis revealed a lack of skid marks at the scene, pointing away from the driver's claim.

Results of blood alcohol tests showed that the drunk driver had over four times the legal amount of alcohol in his system that Sunday morning. He pleaded guilty in August, avoiding a jury trial.

At his September sentencing, a Frederick County Circuit Court Judge sentenced him on several charges, adding up to twenty years in prison: four concurrent 15-year sentences for aggravated manslaughter, one year for driving under the influence, one year for underage possession of alcohol, and three years for probation revocation.

In Virginia, wrongful death is often attributed directly to drunk driving accidents, and surviving family members or dependents can receive monetary damages.

Wrongful death cases require even more research and investigation than non-fatal accidents, but in incidents like the Martinsburg Pike crash, video surveillance and test results can bolster the odds of justice.

Source: The Winchester Star, "Boyce, drunk driver who killed Roe family of 4, sentenced to 20 years in prison," Sep. 25, 2012

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