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Pennington Gap teen charged with involuntary manslaugher waiting to learn fate after fatal crash

WALTER LITTRELL • Jan 24, 2007 at 11:57 AM

JONESVILLE - A Pennington Gap teen charged with involuntary manslaughter following an October crash that claimed the life of a Jonesville woman will have to wait until Feb. 22 to learn his fate following a Tuesday hearing in Lee County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

The 17-year-old male was charged with multiple offenses including involuntary manslaughter, operating a vehicle without a license, no seat belt and improper passing after the Oct. 11 crash on Route 621. Police said after the accident that the teen was driving his 1993 Mitsubishi westbound on Route 621, about 2.2 miles west of Route 421 in Left Poor Valley.

The teen came around a curve, lost control of his vehicle, and struck a 1996 Chevrolet Corsica driven by Connie Jean Blanken, 63. The crash spun both vehicles off the road to their right and over embankments.

Neither driver was wearing a seat belt, and Blanken died at the scene, police said in the initial report.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Damie Carter said during the Tuesday hearing two other juveniles testified that they were traveling in the same direction as the teen when he came up behind them at a high rate of speed and passed their sport utility vehicle on a double solid line in a short straightaway that ended with a sharp curve. The roadway was wet, and the teen lost control of his vehicle in the curve before striking Blanken's vehicle in her lane of travel.

Carter said the teen, who was represented by Wise County attorney Tim McAfee, pleaded guilty to crossing the solid line and was found not guilty of the seat belt violation.

The prosecutor said Wise County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Susie Baker Cox took the manslaughter charge under advisement after McAfee entered a motion to strike that charge, arguing that it amounted to double jeopardy as crossing the double line was a lesser included charge of the offense.

Although the defense presented no evidence during the hearing, McAfee did put on some of the teen's family members to present mitigating evidence testimony. Carter also had members of the victim's family testify.

After hearing all the testimony, Cox took the case under advisement and instructed both sides to argue their cases further in written briefs to her. While the briefs have different due dates, the judge scheduled a ruling date for Feb. 22, and further oral arguments may be presented at that time.

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