Greenville, MS— Judson Cooper, 20, of Hollandale, was sentenced to prison for three (3) counts of Aggravated DUI following his guilty pleas on Monday, District Attorney Dewayne Richardson announced today.
In the early morning hours of January 27, 2019, troopers of the Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to a two-vehicle crash site on Highway 61 just 1 mile south of Highway 438 in Hollandale following a head-on collision in the northbound lane of Highway 61 wherein a pick-up truck struck a hatchback sedan. Troopers and other first responders arrived on scene where they found the driver, Reela McKnight, and rear driver-side passenger, Joann Williams, of the impacted hatchback sedan deceased, and the front passenger, Caroline Nelson, suffering life-threatening injuries. Nelson was airlifted for emergency medical treatment and would ultimately survive the crash.
A motor vehicle collision investigation was initiated by the Mississippi Highway Patrol and included a reconstruction in which it was determined that Cooper was traveling southbound on Highway 61 and veered across the center line into the northbound lane where his truck collided head-on with the sedan driven by McKnight. McKnight and Williams were killed on impact. Cooper was also treated for his injuries and the investigation uncovered that his BAC was at least .114% at the time of the crash. He was later indicted for three (3) counts of Aggravated DUI.
Cooper appeared in the Circuit Court of Washington County on Monday where he entered his pleas of guilty to all three counts. Following a sentencing hearing, where the court heard testimony of witnesses and remarks from counsel, Circuit Court Judge Richard Smith sentenced him to twenty (20) years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with twelve (12) of those years to serve, and the remaining eight (8) years suspended so long as he successfully complies with the requirements of his probationary status following his release.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Kaylon McCou who noted the difficult nature of this type of case: “In every case involving death, there is almost always tragedy on both sides, and even more so where, as here, the death resulted not from an intentionally malicious act, but an egregiously irresponsible decision with grave and fatal consequences. There is no doubt that this young man is regretful and remorseful, but justice requires accountability. We are proud to have advocated on behalf of the victims and their families to seek that justice.”
The Office of the District Attorney is thankful for the trust and patience of the victims’ families and the investigative efforts of the Mississippi Highway Patrol C.R.A.S.H. Team.