published Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Man sentenced to 8 years in drunken-driving death

A 37-year-old man will spend eight years in prison after his drunken-driving crash killed his stepmother.

Michael Larry Smith pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and driving on a revoked license in a plea deal worked out between prosecutor Kate Lavery and public defender Steve Brown.

On Tuesday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern accepted the conditions and sentenced Smith. Smith has been in custody since the Nov. 20, 2011, crash and will receive credit for the time he has served.

Under Tennessee law, he will be eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of the sentence. With credited time, that would mean he would have a parole hearing in 16 months. Parole is not guaranteed nor automatically granted.

Collegedale police responded to the 3:30 a.m. wreck in which Smith's Ford Ranger pickup had driven off Tallent Road and flipped over.

Smith's stepmother, Vanessa Smith, 49, was dead when emergency workers arrived. Tests showed that Michael Smith had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16, twice the legal limit in Tennessee.

When arrested, he admitted to police that he had drunk nine to 12 beers over the previous four hours, Lavery told the judge. Tests also showed an antidepressant medication in his blood.

This was Michael Smith's second DUI; his first was in 1994.

Remaining counts against him, which included violation of open container law, failure to maintain lane and marijuana possession, were dismissed with the guilty plea to vehicular homicide.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or

about Todd South...

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 ...

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