Even as the man who killed his wife heads to prison after pleading guilty, Ernest Pippin II doubts the man in shackles understands the impact of his actions.
"He had one DUI and he was out and he did it again, and this time he killed somebody," Pippin said. "People like that, they just don't care."
Milton Guin III made no statements in court Monday other than to plead guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication and vehicular assault. Criminal Court Judge Don Poole sentenced the 23-year-old to eight years, which prosecutor Kate Lavery and Guin's attorney, Hilary Hodgkins, agreed to before the hearing.
Pippin was eating supper when his phone rang shortly after 9 p.m. on Sept. 23, 2011. He didn't recognize the number so he let it go to voicemail. Once he saw there was a message he listened.
It was his 13-year-old daughter, calling from a police officer's phone. She said there had been an accident on their way home from church.
Pippin rushed to his van and floored it all the way to the intersection of Crabtree Road and Hixson Pike.
There he found his daughter and 3-year-old son being loaded into an ambulance. He kept asking about his wife, Vickie, but emergency workers waved him off, telling him to head to the hospital.
Guin was drunk and had been texting on his phone when he blew through a stop sign and slammed his father's 2000 Mercury Sable into the driver's side of Vickie Pippin's 1995 Nissan Quest at about 42 mph.
Ernest Pippin followed the ambulance. He waited for his children to get X-rays. Then officials brought him and Vickie's parents into a room and told them.
Vickie was gone.
The woman he had met when he returned to church and then married in 1995 was gone. The mother of his children was gone. He was a widower at age 37.
Two hours after the crash, a test showed Guinn had a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the legal limit in Tennessee.
Since then Pippin has arrived at the court appearances and waited.
Last year, Pippin filed a civil lawsuit against Guin and his family seeking $3.4 million in damages. Pippin said Monday that the suit has been resolved but declined to disclose details.
Last week Lavery called him. She said Guin had violated the house arrest he'd been since 2011 by smoking marijuana. She had talked with his attorney and he might be ready to plead guilty.
Pippin didn't want to say the call answered his prayers, but it was definitely welcome news.
Without a guilty plea, "I never saw an ending to this," he said.
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 ...