March 11, 2014

Man pleads in 2012 Interstate fatality

Recommended for 10-year sentence

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A Tennessee man could face a 10-year prison sentence for a July 2012 fatality along Interstate 75 in which he was determined to be under the influence of alcohol.

Austin T. Meredith,  25, of Sevierville, Tenn., entered a guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter and first offense operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants in Laurel Circuit Court on Thursday. He was recommended to serve 10 years in jail for the manslaughter charge and 48 hours on the DUI charge, with the DUI penalty running at the same time as the 10-year sentence. He was set for a sentencing hearing on March 24.

Meredith was originally charged with murder, two counts of wanton endangerment, DUI, no insurance and several violations of commercial drivers requirements including failure to maintain a log book, no DOT number, and no medical certificate.

Jackie Steele, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 27th Judicial Circuit that includes Laurel and Knox counties, said Meredith would only serve 20 percent of the sentence - or two years - before his first eligibility for parole.

Jail records indicate that Meredith has been incarcerated in the Laurel Detention Center since his arrest on July 7, 2012 under $100,000 cash bond.   He has only four more months to serve before he faces the parole board for possible release.

Steele said the service time for manslaughter and for murder - for which Meredith was originally charged - is “a gap in Kentucky.”

“Had he hit the man and the man lost his leg in the accident, he (Meredith) would have faced a 20-year sentence for first-degree assault,” Steele said. “Manslaughter only carries a 20 percent service time. That’s the sad part.”

It was a horrific scene on I-75 in the early morning hours of July 7 as emergency workers arrived at the scene where Meredith’s 2008 Ford box truck struck 49-year-old Howard M. White of Bagdad, Ky., killing White instantly. White was driving of 2000 white Ford rollback wrecker near the 30-mile marker of the interstate when he pulled off the shoulder into the emergency lane to check his load. As White stood by the roadway, Meredith’s vehicle approached, crossed the white line of the roadway and hit White and the wrecker. The accident occurred around 4 a.m. while two passengers in White’s vehicle looked on. Despite the impact of Meredith’s vehicle striking the rollback wrecker, neither of the passengers were injured although White was killed instantly.

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