Timothy Wellons was sentenced to more than forty years in a Roanoke courtroom Monday but will only serve fifteen and a half. He apologized to the families of the truck drivers he killed. His attorney says he's on the road to redemption. But the widows of the victims he created couldn't even look him in the eye when he asked for forgiveness.
“I hope justice is served,” said the wife of Salem truck driver Paul Golding. “We can't bring him back.” That was before a judge gave Wellons less than half the sentence she requested.
She spoke about how her husband loved the outdoors. She was at the Valley View Mall on June 12th, not far away, when Paul was killed in the fiery crash.
"It never occurred to me that it was him until it was about 7 and he hadn't returned any text messages or calls,” she told WDBJ7 after he died.
Golding’s truck collided with the cab of fellow trucker Kenneth Graham from Lexington, North Carolina. His wife of twenty years Glenda, also testified Monday afternoon and asked for the maximum sentence of twenty years on each manslaughter charge.
“He's not coming home,” she said “I called him [that day] and I figured he'd come home and he didn't come home.”
Judge William Broadhurst heard that testimony, but also evidence from the defense that Wellons suffers from the disease of alcoholism, that he tried to quit drinking, but the withdrawal was so bad he once had a seizure.
Attorney Greg Phillips tried to argue the disease compelled him to drink, but prosecutor Wanda DeWease said it was Wellons who made the choice to drink vodka all day at work before getting into his car and driving recklessly on the interstate. His blood alcohol level was more than .34. Health experts say most people fall into a coma at more than .30. The legal limit is .08.
“If we can get the attention of just one person out there with this sentence today to make a different decision not to drink,” she said. “Or if they're going to drink, don't drive.”
Wellons pleaded no contest to charges in September. His sentencing was delayed after he entered into the ALPHA program while in jail. It took him a few months to complete and he was housed with the other inmates in the program. It has led Wellons to accept and admit his problems and try to become a better man for it, Phillips explained.
Wellons will be around 50 when he gets out and will be on indefinite probation. He had two previous DUI convictions a decade ago and the only time he could stay sober was when he was being watched by a probation officer. He also got sentenced Monday to six months for hitting a nurse while still drunk at the hospital after the crash.
He was combative and cursing at all medical personnel who treated him. He needed a sedative to calm him down. An attendant says when asked about the crash, he told doctors he side-swiped a tractor trailer and then laughed.