Eaton Sentenced To Prison
Calvin Eaton, 48, of Wheeling, was sentenced to prison Thursday, in Wetzel County Circuit Court, for negligent homicide. The death resulted from an automobile collision in which the prosecution believes Eaton was under the influence of alcohol. Judge David W. Hummel proceeded over Eaton’s plea and sentencing.
The automobile collision occurred November 2015 on Route 20, near Porters Falls. According to a police report previously filed in the case, a tanker truck, operated by Eaton, went off the right side of the road for an unknown reason. The tanker then came back onto the right side of the road, but crossed the center of the road, striking a 2014 Jeep Wrangler coming from the opposite direction. A 61-year-old man died because of the accident.
Eaton was allegedly on the job at the time of accident and was found to have a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.
In September 2016, the grand jury handed down a one-count indictment to Eaton, charging him with “driving in an impaired state causing death.”
In court Thursday, Eaton was sentenced to one day short of the statutory maximum for the offense of negligent homicide, which is one year. He was ordered to complete a year of home confinement following the prison sentence.
According to Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught, blood tests from Ruby Memorial Hospital “were not admissible because there was insufficient evidence to prove their reliability under the statute providing for their admission and the West Virginia Rules of Evidence.”
Haught said there are very strict rules for the admission of such evidence, making DUI cases “one of the most complex and difficult cases we prosecute.”
Haught said blood must be drawn within a certain time period and the hospital must maintain and document a proper chain of custody in order for blood tests to be used.
“That did not happen,” Haught said.
The prosecutor added that Eaton was flown by helicopter from the accident to Morgantown, which further complicated the collection of evidence.
“Unfortunately, the inadmissability of the test results prevented us from proceeding on the more serious charge of DUI with death,” Haught said.
Judge Hummel had noted that if the blood was admissible, Eaton could have received a three to 10 year prison sentence.
Eaton confessed in open court Thursday to drinking whiskey prior to this truck route, prior to getting behind the wheel of the tanker truck. Eaton expressed remorse in court, shaking while speaking to the judge. He apologized to the family of the deceased, stating he would trade places with the deceased if he could.
Judge Hummel noted that a good man had lost his life, because of Eaton. He explained that the deceased’s family had written him letters regarding the plea and sentencing. The family had said they felt sorry for Eaton. Yet, they also expressed that though they were upset he was only pleading to, and being sentenced for, a misdemeanor, they understood the issue with the test results. They said that although justice could not be served through the court system, they knew God could also pass judgement.
The Wetzel Chronicle will have more details on this story in its Dec. 21 edition.