CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - An Emporia man was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison for a wrong-way crash on Route 288 that killed a Midlothian man.
Matthew Perry Pernell was sentenced to one year in prison for a DUI and seven years for aggravated manslaughter in the December 2016 incident.
Pernell was driving his pickup south on Route 288 near Chester Road on Dec. 27 when he crossed into northbound traffic and struck a car driven by Alonza Jefferson Jr., according to State Police. Pernell's pickup then overturned, while Jefferson's car crashed head-on into the guardrail.
Pernell had a .236 blood alcohol content - three times the legal limit. This was Pernell's third DUI charge since 2010.
The defense argued that although Pernell made poor choices, he was a stand-up citizen who worked and took care of his elderly grandparents, but he needed help because of his alcoholism. They had five people testify in his defense, including Pernell himself.
"We had letters from the sheriff where he lives, from the preacher, from family friends, from co-workers," said Steven Novey, Pernell's attorney. "I mean, we had a lot of mitigation I think the judge took it into account."
Teary-eyed and apologizing to the Jefferson family, Pernell said he accepts whatever the judge decided on his fate.
It was an emotional day in the courtroom for both the Jefferson and Pernell families.
"It was really emotional. I lost myself for a little bit," said 22-year-old Destani Huffman-Jefferson, the victim's daughter.
With tears in her eyes, Huffman-Jefferson recounted in front of a packed courtroom the night she found out her father was killed. It was around 3:45 in the morning on Dec. 27 when she received that heart-wrenching call from her mom. Since that moment, nothing has been the same.
"I just have to remind myself it's all in God's plan," said Huffman-Jefferson.
Huffman-Jefferson now works a full-time and part-time job. She says her younger brother has completely isolated himself. Her family struggles both emotionally and financially, as Alonza Jefferson worked two jobs to provide for his family.
Pernell was remorseful and apologized to the Jefferson family, saying he wished he had been the one killed. He admitted to his alcohol problem.
"I felt like I finally could forgive him after hearing from him," said Huffman-Jefferson.
The prosecution said Pernell had a history of poor choices due to his alcoholism and wanted the judge to give Pernell 20 years in prison. Ultimately, he received eight years and was ordered to pay restitution to the Jefferson family.
"I know eight years isn't a short amount of time, but it's not comparable at all to me never having my dad around," said Huffman-Jefferson.
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