Man gets 14 years for I-71 fatal crash

By John Hamilton -

WILMINGTON — An Arkansas man was given a mandatory 14-year prison sentence.

Charles Paul Jr., 47, originally from Bauxite, Arkansas, was sentenced in Clinton County Common Pleas Court by Judge John “Tim” Rudduck on Tuesday.

Paul pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated vehicular homicide (a felony 2 offense) and aggravated vehicular assault (a felony 3 offense) on July 13 in Clinton County Common Pleas Court.

The crash occurred in June 2019 where two passengers were pronounced dead at the scene on I-71 southbound near the State Route 73 interchange. The victims were Paul’s 12-year-old son, Charles III, and Paul’s friend, 58-year-old Edward Priest.

Paul’s daughter, now 12, was transported by MedFlight to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with what the Ohio State Highway Patrol described as serious injuries.

According to the prosecution, she had suffered severe internal injuries including traumatic ones to the brain.

Paul was driving a Chrysler Pacifica when it went onto the right berm and struck the trailer of a Freightliner semi-truck parked with mechanical issues, according to the OSHP.

Before sentencing, Katie Wilkin of the Clinton County Prosecutor’s Office spoke of how Paul was under the influence of meth, amphetamines, marijuana, and still chose to drive.

“He was 13 times over the state limit,” said Wilkin, in reference to Paul’s intoxication. “This is not someone who had a ‘little meth’ in their system or maybe someone who took it a few days prior.”

She also referenced how Paul — who was on parole and was driving under suspension — drove 66 miles per hour into the parked vehicle and didn’t hit the brakes until “.6 seconds” before contact was made.

“That’s quicker than the snap of a finger,” said Wilkin, who also referenced Paul’s previous criminal offenses dating back to 1994.

The prosecution claimed the defensive was trying to minimize the severity of the accident. Public Defender Alycia Bemmes advised they were not.

“No one in this court needs to convince (Paul) or tell him how serious his actions were,” said Bemmes.

She added Paul would have to live with knowing he caused the two deaths and the injuries to his daughter.

“He’s going to have to live with that for the rest of his life, long after he is released from prison,” she said.

When given a chance to speak, Paul took the blame for his actions but believed he was not high. He believed he fell asleep, advising the court he had been up the previous days before.

He hoped for a lesser sentence so he could still be in his daughter’s life.

Judge Rudduck acknowledged the feelings of guilt and “internal punishment” Paul is dealing with. But Rudduck felt a heavier prison sentence was needed given the severity of the offenses and Paul’s previous criminal history.

Along with his prison sentence, Paul received a lifetime suspension from driving.

By John Hamilton

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574