A 56-year-old Alton man, Thomas Patrick Doyle, was sentenced Friday in Halifax County Circuit Court to charges related to a wreck on June 25, 2019, that took the life of a passenger in his vehicle.
The commonwealth recommended an active sentence at the high end of the guidelines, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin, and Judge Kimberley S. White imposed a two-year active sentence for DUI manslaughter plus a 12-month active sentence for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.
White also ordered $4,400 in restitution, and authorized work release once Doyle serves his felony time.
He also was ordered two years supervised probation with random tests administrated, and he must remain alcohol free.
Doyle had previously pleaded guilty in February to a felony charge for DUI manslaughter and a misdemeanor charge for a first offense of DWI related to the wreck that killed 27-year-old Theresa Goetz, a New Jersey resident.
“The death of Theresa Goetz was a terrible tragedy. The tragedy was deepened by the fact that the defendant Thomas Doyle, her uncle, was wholly responsible for her death. Doyle chose to drink that night; he chose to drive that night; and he chose to allow his niece to be his passenger. No amount of punishment could make up for the Goetz family’s loss,” said Martin.
At Friday’s sentencing event, testimony of Teresa Goetz’s mother, Patricia Doyle Goetz, reflected the family’s loss, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
“Her graphic description of her daughter’s death, coupled with expressions of care for the defendant, her brother, demonstrated a family in an unmitigated storm of emotions,” she added.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney said she consulted with the victim’s family before deciding on its recommendation of punishment to the court and with law enforcement.
She said the victim’s family did not desire Doyle to be punished harshly. With the support of law-enforcement, the Commonwealth agreed, when Doyle pleaded guilty, that Doyle would be sentenced within the Sentencing Guidelines, which the Court is required to consider before imposing punishment. The guideline range was roughly one year to three years.
According to an accident report filed by Virginia State Trooper D.N. Clark, along with a Virginia State Police crash team report, a 1988 Dodge Dakota pickup truck driven by Doyle was traveling south on
Traynham Grove Road around 8 p.m. on June 25, 2019 when the truck ran off the left side of the road.
Doyle over-corrected causing the truck to cross back over the road and run off the right side of the road, where it struck a tree, according to Clark.
Doyle refused medical treatment at the scene and was transported to the Blue Ridge Regional Jail, while Goetz, a passenger in the truck, died at the scene, the police report continued.
Both Doyle and Goetz were wearing seat belts, according to
Clark, who later prepared a Virginia State Police crash team report, which noted that the most damage to the truck was on the right side at the passenger’s door, with heavy direct impact damage on the door and door post.
According to the crash team report, Doyle stated that a deer ran out in front of him, and he swerved to avoid it causing him to run off the shoulder of the road.
“While this is possible, it is more likely improbable,” the crash team report stated.
“Barring any statements made by the driver (Doyle), any vehicle swerving to dodge an animal should have more prominent tire marks prior to running off the roadway.
“Additionally, the angle of approach into the shoulder is minor,” the crash team report stated.
“It is inconsistent with a vehicle swerving. It is more consistent with a vehicle gradually entering the shoulder, or rather staying straight while the road curves to the right.”