A Forsyth County man received a 24-month sentence Friday in a misdemeanor vehicular homicide case that fell just shy of the criteria to be considered a felony.
Ronnie Pilcher, 37, pleaded guilty to second-degree homicide by vehicle and failure to maintain lane in Forsyth County State Court.
Pilcher will serve six months in jail and 18 months on probation for the April 15, 2012, wreck that claimed the life of 50-year-old Rick Luter.
The collision on Matt Highway, which occurred when Pilcher lost control of his Chevrolet 1500, also seriously injured Luter’s wife Mary Jane, a passenger in his Ford F250. Pilcher was uninjured.
She said during the court hearing that the nightmarish memories of the wreck will never leave her.
After her husband’s truck flipped and landed in an embankment, she was hanging by her seat belt, unable to breathe or free herself. With his last breath, she said, her husband reached over and pushed the button to release her.
Forsyth County Chief Deputy Solicitor Inez Grant said Pilcher’s breath test registered a .02 blood-alcohol content, and his blood test returned only trace amounts of drugs.
Neither of those rose to the level of driving under the influence, which could have resulted in a felony charge.
Judge Russell McClelland said the facts of the case were “about as close to a felony homicide by vehicle as I’ve seen in my time.”
“I can understand the family’s frustration with the system and how the law works,” he said.
The family felt that justice couldn’t be served.
Luter read a letter from her 20-year-old son, who wrote he didn’t have the “emotional stability” to face Pilcher in court.
“He will only serve the time allowed by law,” she read. “The sentence will not be for the crime he truly committed.”
The letter expressed anger at Pilcher’s many short stints in jail through his criminal history of misdemeanors, including a 1995 conviction for the same offense — second-degree vehicular homicide.
Forsyth County court records show he’s also been convicted of residential burglary and battery, as well as traffic offenses such as speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road and seat belt violation.
Since the fatal wreck, Pilcher has been charged with possession of an open alcohol container by driver in November and simple assault, aggressive driving and reckless driving in January 2013.
Luter’s son also wrote about the pain the wreck continues to cause him and his mother. “Nothing will bring my dad back,” he concluded. “The sadness will never end.”
Daisy Weeks, an attorney representing Pilcher, said the death has been difficult for him as well, and he will have to live with knowing how he affected the family.
However, no amount of jail time and no words he could say would bring Luter back, she said.
Pilcher did apologize in court with the few words he said, but mostly hung his head as he listened to the words of Luter’s wife and son.
Also as part of his plea, Pilcher must pay a $1,500 fine, complete 100 hours of community service and surrender his driver’s license for 12 months after release from jail. He must not use any drugs or alcohol and will undergo a substance abuse evaluation.
The family has requested restitution in the case, which is still being determined. Pilcher will also pay for a memorial service for Luter or contribution to charity in his honor up to $200.