A 39-year-old man who pleaded guilty in the dragging death of his girlfriend was ordered to a one-year rehabilitation program and probation Tuesday.
Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole sentenced John Thomas White to five years in prison on a split sentence for a charge of vehicular homicide in the Jan. 6, 2010, dragging death of 27-year-old Marie Oliver.
White has been in the Hamilton County Jail since his arrest nearly two years ago. His time served in jail counts toward the incarceration portion of his sentence.
Once released from jail, White must report to an alcohol rehabilitation program.
After the hearing, White's attorney, Ben McGowan, said his client has taken responsibility for what he did and the punishment was appropriate.
"This is a no-win situation for anyone; it is a terrible tragedy," McGowan said.
Assistant District Attorney Lance Pope declined comment on the outcome of the sentencing.
"[Oliver] is not going to get the chance to see her children," Pope told the jury during the trial. "She's not going to get to do that because Mr. White ran her over."
Witnesses who were at 3222 Cummings Highway the night of Oliver's death testified in earlier hearings that the couple got into an argument and Oliver followed White out of the bar.
Oliver then grabbed onto the passenger side of White's 2005 GMC pickup truck as he drove away, dragging her down Cummings Highway. She fell under the truck and was run over, witnesses said, but White continued driving.
White's father, Tommy White, testified on his son's behalf in the first part of the sentencing hearing on Oct. 18, which was postponed until Tuesday.
After the hearing, Tommy White said his family wishes they could have Oliver back and that the couple's relationship was clouded by alcohol abuse.
"They both had their problems," he said. "I can't put any more blame on her than I do my own son."
The couple have a 2-year-old daughter named Emma. White has three other children by another woman.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...