Drunk driver gets 8-year sentence in toddler death case

By: 
Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

A Prattsville man will serve the next eight years in the Arkansas Department of Correction after being sentenced Friday by Saline County Circuit Judge Barbara Webb.

Thomas Fuell, 23, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and leaving the scene of an injury accident Friday stemming from a 2016 hit-and-run case that left 2-year-old Dalton Grimes dead.

According to the Saline County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the investigation proved that Fuell “had been drinking heavily at Twin Peaks (Little Rock) the night of the wreck.”
A subsequent test was positive for the presence of marijuana as well.

According to a release, an accident reconstruction team revealed that Fuell’s truck left the lane of travel, crossed the center line and opposite lane before striking a wagon carrying the child on the paved shoulder of the roadway. The child’s mother, Devyn Grimes, was pulling the wagon at the time.

Grimes told investigators that she saw the truck’s headlights but that impact occurred before she could react and pull the wagon out of the way.

According to a story published by The Saline Courier, the wreck occurred around 3:30 a.m. July 10, 2016.

Fuell admitted to seeing Grimes, but stated that he did not think he had hit her.
He was arrested more than two weeks after the wreck.

After hitting the wagon, the defendant did not stop and render aid to Grimes or the child.

During the sentencing hearing, Saline County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Bush presented the testimony of Grimes, who stated that Dalton was her only child and that she is constantly reminded of the grievous injuries he suffered prior to his death.

She stated that she has become “very withdrawn because even casual questions concerning whether she has children cause her to have to explain that her only child died at the hands of a drunk driver and that she witnessed his death.”

Grimes faced Fuell and testified that she hoped that he would someday have a child so that he could understand the depth of the loss that she feels. She told Fuell that she hoped that he would become an honorable man as a tribute to her son.

“One man’s casual decision to consume alcohol and drugs and drive resulted in the death of an innocent child,” Bush said. “His death will have a lasting effect on his family who loved him dearly. Our only hope is that this sentence will serve to deter others from drinking and driving and its tragic consequences.”
Webb also sentenced the defendant to serve two years of suspended imposition of sentence following his release from prison and ordered him to pay for the child’s funeral expenses.

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