Stopher pleads to 13-year sentence in 2018 fatal crash

A man charged with causing his wife's death in a traffic crash last year will now serve 13 years in prison.

Joshua Allen Stopher, 38, of South U.S. 25 in Corbin, entered a guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, driving under the influence — first offense and second-degree persistent felony offender in Laurel Circuit Court on Monday afternoon.

Due to Stopher's prior felony conviction for possession of controlled substance in 2014, the persistent felony offender charge enhanced the recommended sentences in his guilty plea.

The Commonwealth Attorney's office recommended that Stopher serve eight years on the manslaughter charge, which was enhanced to 13 years. The second-degree assault charge was also enhanced from eight years to 13 years, while the DUI, first offense charge - a misdemeanor - was set at serving 48 hours and a $250 fine. All the sentences will run concurrently, or at the same time, giving Stopher a total 13 year sentence.

Circuit Judge Greg Lay explained to Stopher during the plea hearing that the guilty plea to the DUI charge would be on Stopher's record for 10 years.

"You understand with the guilty plea to the DUI, first offense that if you get another DUI within 10 years, the conviction would be enhanced," Lay said.

Stopher agreed with that, entering the plea of his own free will and not being promised any compensation or consideration. Lay also told Stopher that he had the right to a jury trial but that by entering a guilty plea to the charges, he would eliminate any chances of an appeal of the sentence imposed.

Again, Stopher agreed with that, stating that he understood his rights.

The plea agreement was an emotional one for the family of Charity Stopher, who died as a result of the accident on November 9, 2018.

Rosalee Brewer, Charity's mother, sobbed openly as the case was settled with the plea agreement. She later posted on Facebook that she felt that her daughter's death had received justice in the case. Several other of Brewer's family members were also present in the courtroom for the hearing.

Joshua Stopher was operating a motor vehicle along U.S. 25-South on Nov. 9, 2018, when he suddenly swerved into the oncoming traffic lane as if to make a turn into a business there. His vehicle was struck in the passenger side where Charity Stopher was seated.

The impact of the crash took the life of Charity Stopher as well as seriously injuring the driver of the oncoming vehicle that struck Stopher. Both Josh Stopher and the driver of the other vehicle taken for medical treatment following the crash.

Stopher was then indicted by a Laurel grand jury on charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants, driving on suspended or revoked operator's license, failure to maintain automobile insurance and second-degree persistent felony offender.

Stopher was arrested on the indictment warrant on Aug. 16, 2018, and has remained incarcerated at the Laurel County Correctional Center, held under $50,000. He was returned to the jail following his plea.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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