Court Cases I WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

[UPDATE] Truck Driver Sentenced in Deadly DUI Crash

By: Lanetra Bennett; Julie Montanaro Email
By: Lanetra Bennett; Julie Montanaro Email

Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 6:15pm - A truck driver gets the maximum sentence in a deadly crash that killed an elementary school bookkeeper.

That's the sentence her family requested in an emotional court hearing.

Debra Allen says taking the stand to talk about her sister was one of the hardest things she's ever had to do.

Allen says, "The first was getting that call February 16, 2011 that my little sister was killed. That day changed my life forever. I miss my little sister, my best friend."

Allen's sister, Wendy Jackson, was killed in a crash around 7 a.m. on February 16, 2011.

Monday, a judge sentenced James Wyrosdick to 25 years in prison.

Jackson's husband, Jimbo Jackson, says, "There's nothing we can do to get Wendy back or receive a reduction in our sentence. We're being held in our own personal prisons without any reduction to ease our pain."

Wyrosdick's attorney says Wyrosdick was going down Highway 20 in Leon County after a long truck driving run.

He says Wyrosdick had taken pain killers and was tired and sleepy when his tractor trailer crossed the center line and crashed into Jackson's car.

The prosecutor says Wyrosdick had marijuana and prescription drugs in his truck, and cannibus and methamphetamine in his system.

Amanda Abbott's SUV was also hit, with her 5-year-old son inside. She was also Jackson's friend.

Abbott says, "There's not a single day that goes by that the survivor guilt doesn't consume me. I've missed work, exhausted all my leave, spent countless hours in my therapist's office and cried a million tears."

There were many tears in the courtroom Monday.

Another one of Jackson's sisters, Belinda Tucker, says, "My dad is broken. He's still broken. There's nothing my sister or family can do to take his pain away."

Jackson was a bookkeeper at Gilchrist Elementary School and a mother of two daughters.

Wyrosdick's driver license is revoked for the rest of his life. He was also cited for safety violations on his truck. He was also sentenced to go to DUI school, attend a victim impact panel and a victim awareness panel.

Wyrosdick will have to pay any restitution and court costs.

He was granted time served for six other counts.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 2:20pm - On the other six counts, Wyrosdick was given time served since 25 years was the maximum sentence.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 2:14pm -Wyrosdick sentenced to 15 years for DUI manslaughter and five years for DUI with serious bodily harm and another five for possession of a controlled substance.

All 25 years will be served consecutively meaning back to back.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 12:34pm-Court is in recess until two pm.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 12:19pm -The prosecution played recordings of some of Wyrosdick's phone calls with his wife while he was in jail. Wyrosdick is heard saying he will become an alcoholic since he can't do drugs any more.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 12:12pm -Wyrosdick's parents are back in the courtroom. A woman and young girl are also sitting near them. Wyrosdick does have a wife and daughter.

Wyrosdick's attorney says Wyrosdick lied about a car pulling out in front of his semi truck and the drugs because he was scared.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 12:06pm -The prosecution is asking for a maximum of 25 years in prison. Wyrosdick's attorney is asking for the four-year minimum.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 12:04pm - The prosecutor says the fatal crash was by no means an accident. He calls it "an intentional crime." The prosecutor says what Wyrosdick did was no different than Wyrosdick loading a gun, pointing it at a crowd, and pulling the trigger. He says Wyrosdick did everything in his power to not get caught, calling Wyrosdick a "liar;" and says when he did get caught, Wyrosdick still didn't take responsibility. He says Wyrosdick does not deserve a light sentence.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 11:47 am - Wyrosdick just refused the opportunity to address the court.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 11:39 am - Still barely a dry eye in the courtroom. Wendy Jackson's husband, Jimbo Jackson, just described his and their daughter's daily pain. He days Wyrosdick wants a reduced sentence but Jackson's family has not had a reduction in pain.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 11:18am - Wyrosdick's parents walked out of the courtroom while Wendy Jackson's sister was on the stand talking about how the crash has devastated the family's life.
A second sister also describes the pain while on the stand.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 11:09 am - Almost everyone in the courtroom is crying. Amanda Abbott is on the stand. She is a driver who was also hit by Wyrosdick's truck. Her SUV was in front of Wendy Jackson's car. Abbott is describing the crash. She says Jackson was her friend and that she feels guilty for surviving. Abbott's 5-year-old son was in the SUV with her. He has scars on his face that she says remind them of the crash every day.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 11 am - Another trooper with FHP is on the stand. He says Wyrosdick admitted that the marijuana and pipe found in his tractor trailer was his. He says Wyrosdick denied the controlled substances. He says on the scene, Wyrosdick told paramedics he crashed because he wad sleepy, but, told the trooper at the hospital that a car had pulled out in front of him.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 10:52 am - Sgt Ryan Vicars from the Georgia Department of Public Safety is on the stand. He is testifying about when Wyrosdick was on an inspection stop in 2010. He says Wyrosdick had multiple violations on his semi truck. One of the violations was not having a log book.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 10:43 am - FHP Trooper Randall Haire testifies that the tractor trailer that Wyrosdick was driving shouldn't have been on the road. He says the truck was not safe to operate. He pointed out tires, brakes, and several other violations on the vehicle.He says Wyrosdick violated federal regulations by not having a driver's log book or a medical certificate.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 10:35 am - Corporal Scotty Lolley with the Florida Highway Patrol says when authorities arrived on the crash scene, they found marijuana, a pipe, and controlled substances in Wyrosdick's semi truck. He testifies that meth was also found in Wyrosdick's system.

Corporal Lolley says about eight witnesses said they saw Wyrosdick driving in an erratic behavior just before the crash.

Corporal Lolley says authorities went to arrest Wyrosdick at his Jackson County home in June 2011, they could not find him. Lolley days they heard Wyrosdick had a hiding spot that he used to hide from law enforcement. Corporal Lolley says when they went back to the home a second time, they found Wyrosdick in an air conditioning duct.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 10:13 am - Wyrosdick's mother, Dorothy Morris,is on the stand asking the judge for mercy. She says the crash was a freak accident. Morris says Wyrosdick "does not deserve to be put away." She says Wyrosdick's 10-year-old daughter needs her father.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 10:00 am - Wyrosdick's attorney says had Wendy Jackson been driving 15 seconds faster or slower, Wyrosdick would've just crashed in the ditch and they wouldn't be where they are today.
He says Wyrosdick is not an evil man nor is he some type of predator.
He says Wyrosdick took medication the night of the crash, plus he was tired from a long truck run. The attorney said alcohol had no place in the case.


Tallahassee, FL - October 29, 2012 - 9:36 am - The sentencing of James Wyrosdick is underway. He is accused of killing Wendy Jackson in a DUI crash on February 16, 2011 on Highway 20 in Leon County. Jackson was a bookkeeper at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Wyrosdick's attorney is standing before the judge this morning asking for the minimum prison sentence. He says the crash was an isolated incident and Wyrosdick shows remorse.

Courtroom 2B of the Leon County Courthouse is filled with the victim's family. Members are expected to speak in court.


Tallahassee, FL - October 28, 2012

A former truck driver accused of killing a school bookkeeper in a drunk driving crash will be sentenced tomorrow 10-29

Forty-year-old James Wyrosdick faces up to 31 years in prison.
He's accused of being drunk behind an 18-wheeler that crashed into and killed Wendy Jackson.

Jackson worked at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Wyrodsdick pled guilty back in July to nine charges including DUI manslaughter and drug possession.


UPDATED 7.27.2012 by Julie Montanaro

A man accused of killing a school bookkeeper in a drunk driving crash is now awaiting sentencing.

James Wyrosdick entered a no contest plea this week to nine charges including DUI manslaughter and drug possession.

Wyrosdick is accused of being under the influence when his 18 wheeler collided with Wendy Jackson's car on Blountstown Highway in February 2011.

Jackson worked at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Wyrosdick will be sentenced October 29th. He faces up to 31 years in prison.


[UPDATE] June 23, 2012 - 5:30pm - by Jill Chandler/Amy Long

FHP says James Wyrosdick was found hiding in an air conditioning duct at his home in Jackson County Thursday morning.

Wyrosdick, who drove for H&W trucking out of Wewahitchka, FL, is accused of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. FHP says he was driving under the influence when his 18-wheeler hit Wendy Jackson's car on February 16, 2011.

A spokesperson says his semi-truck crossed the center line and hit Jackson's car head on.

FHP Corporal Scotty Lolley said, "The driver of the semi did, in fact, have numerous narcotics present in his blood at the time of the crash."

Joyce Stephens who drove by the accident back in February said, "I rode by it, that was a terrible loss really. You know, he took a life. You know, a mother, a wife. Yeah I think he needs to be charged."

People who frequent Highway 20 were talking about the arrest. Joyce Stephens saw the crash the day it happened. She said, "You know he took a life... You know a mother, a wife, you know... Yeah I think he needs to be charged."

FHP says Wyrosdick was under the influence of meth and anti-depressants at the time. Troopers also found marijuana in his truck.

Stephens says D.O.T. also found multiple violations. He says Wyrosdick had exceeded his hours behind the wheel.


[UPDATE] 6-23 11:30am - by Julie Montanaro

A Jackson County man is being booked into jail right now for a crash that killed a Tallahassee school bookkeeper.

He's accused of being behind the wheel and under the influence when his 18 wheeler collided with Wendy Jackson's car on Blountstown Highway in February.

An FHP spokesman says 40 year old James Wyrosdick was found hiding in an air conditioning duct at his home in Jackson County this morning.

An FHP spokesman says Wyrosdick was arrested and accused of a long list of charges: vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, three counts of DUI with property damage, two counts of DUI with injury, possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia.

The crash happened on Blountstown Highway February 16th. An FHP spokesman says Wyrosdick's semi crossed the center line, sideswiped an SUV and hit Wendy Jackson's car head on.

Sgt. Aaron Stephens says Wyrosdick was under the influence of meth and anti-depressants at the time and troopers also found marijuana in his truck.

Stephens says the Department of Transportation also found numerous violations. He says Wyrosdick had exceeded his allowable hours behind the wheel and said only three of the truck's 18 brakes were working properly.

Wendy Jackson was a bookkeeper at Gilchrist Elementary. The 41 year old left behind a husband and two children.



February 17, 2011- 6:30pm by Jill Chandler

The death of Wendy Jackson has shaken those who work in the Leon County School System.

Jackson is the wife of the principal at Fort Braden and worked at Gilchrist Elementary as a book keeper, and at Reudiger Elementary before that. Jackson leaves behind a husband and two daughters.

Principal of Gilchrist, David Soulz, said she will be missed. He said, "She's a wonderful person. She really is a happy face each day, always a quick good morning. Yesterday was just so many people sharing the great moments or times or conversations with her."

Grief counselors have been at Fort Braden, Reudigers, and Gilchrest since shortly after the accident happened. There is no word of when a memorial will be, but Principal Soulz says they will have one in the upcoming weeks.


[UPDATE]

According to FHP, the tractor trailer was traveling west on State Road 20, while the Honda and Acura SUV were traveling east on State Road 20. The SUV was in front of the Honda, Jackson's vehicle.

The tractor trailer crossed the center line and the left front of the truck struck the left side of the SUV. The SUV came to final rest in a drainage ditch on the south shoulder of State Road 20.

The truck continued west traveling further into the eastbound lane and the front of truck struck the front of Jackson's vehicle. The truck and Honda came to final rest on the south shoulder of State Road 20.

Charges remain pending according to FHP.


Updated 5:48pm 2-16 by Jennifer Milton

Over a dozen emergency vehicles responded to a stretch of road on Blounstown Highway on Wednesday morning, where Florida Highway Patrol says two vehicles collided with an 18 wheeler, killing one woman in the crash.

"It was very loud."

Melissa Hommell was inside the gas station store she manages, when she heard a loud smash. That's when she walked outside and witnessed the catastrophe.

"I was sitting inside the store and we heard, like, the tractor trailer was like a blow-out, like a tire blow-out. We get out and then we see the vehicle that's over here in the ditch. We see this vehicle and then we see the 18 wheeler sliding, trying to stop, slide down here and collided with this other vehicle," said Melissa Hommell.

Troopers say 41-year-old Wendy Jackson was driving east on Highway 20, when an Acura SUV struck an 18 wheeler---the 18 wheeler then crashed into Jackson's Honda Accord. Authorities say Jackson died upon impact.

"Oh it was horrifying," said Hommell.

Leon County School officials were hit hard with the news of Jackson's death. She was a bookkeeper at Gilchrist and Ruediger Elementary schools, while her husband is the principal at Ft. Braden School.

"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time. and definitely with the entire Leon County Schools community as we deal with this tragic impact," said Petley.

At this point, investigators have not disclosed which driver is at fault and say charges are pending.

Leon County school officials say schools in the area are having faculty meetings to discuss today's tragedy. They also say grief counselors were on campus' throughout the district.

FHP says 40 year old James Wyrosdick was driving the tractor trailer and 31-year-old Amanda Abbott was driving the Acura SUV.

Abbott's 5-year-old and the semi driver suffered minor injuries in the crash.

Officials also say Jackson was wearing a seat belt.


[UPDATE] 2-16 2:45PM

41-year-old Wendy Jackson was the woman killed the in accident, according to the Florida highway Patrol. WCTV has learned that Jackson was a bookkeeper at Gilchrist and Ruediger Elementary Schools.

FHP will not be releasing the cause of the crash until the investigation is completed. Charges are pending as the investigation continues.

Jackson's picture is attached


[UPDATE] 2-16 9:40AM

One lane has been opened for traffic.


[UPDATE] 2-16 9:20AM

A female was killed in an accident on State Road 20, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The accident involved an 18-wheeler, an SUV, and a Honda Accord. Multiple people were taken to TMH, including 18-wheeler driver.

FHP says that the female was pronounced dead on scene, and was still in the vehicle when she was pronounced dead.

At this time, FHP cannot tell if she was wearing a seat belt. They are investigating the accident at this time. It is unknown at this time who was at fault or if there will be charges.

FHP is being assisted by LCSO and FDOT. DEP is also on the scene checking to make sure there wasn’t a fuel leakage.


[UPDATE] 2-16 9AM --

Deputies on the scene are setting up roadblocks around the Chevron gas station near the scene.

Authorities report that there has been one fatality.

Our news team is currently at the scene.


The Florida Highway Patrol and deputies from the Leon County Sheriff's Office are at the scene of an accident between a vehicle and a semi-trailer truck. The accident occurred off of Highway 20, near the Ft. Braden Community Center (16387 Blountstown Highway).

No other information is known at this time.

Eyewitness News has a crew heading to the scene.

Stay with WCTV for updates.


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