A 52 year old Liberty man charged in a fatal traffic accident last summer appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday before Judge Leon Burns, Jr. where he pled guilty to vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, and assault.
Johnny Lynn Hickey, facing a possible prison term of eight to twelve years and loss of his drivers license for up to three years, will be sentenced on May 24. He was indicted in December on one count of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, and driving under the influence.
"We (state prosecutors) will be arguing for him (Hickey) to receive the most time he could serve," said Gary McKenzie, Deputy District Attorney General in an interview with WJLE Friday.
"He pled guilty blind (without knowing what his sentence will be) which is a good indication of how strong the case was that the Tennessee Highway Patrol put together," said McKenzie. "They did an outstanding job working this investigation. His plea has the same effect as if we would have tried and a jury convicted him," said McKenzie.
Hickey was charged in the death of 30 year old Chris Gammons who passed away Monday, July 9, 2012 at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.
Gammons and Hickey were among four people in the accident which occurred on Saturday morning, June 23, 2012 on Highway 70 near the intersection of Highway 96 (Dale Ridge Road) on Snow Hill.
Gammons and Troy Bruno, both of Smithville were airlifted from near the scene of the crash by Life Force and Air Evac helicopter ambulances. The other person injured in the wreck was 32 year old Cleva Elaine Gammons of Smithville, wife of Chris Gammons. Hickey was not hurt.
Central dispatch received the call at 3:28 a.m that morning.
According to Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Hickey was traveling west on Highway 70 in a 2004 F350 full size flat bed truck when he crossed the turning lane and into the path of an eastbound 2002 Nissan Altima, driven by Cleva Elaine Gammons. Chris Gammons was a front seat passenger and Troy Bruno was a back seat passenger of the Altima. Chris Gammons was ejected and landed on the highway, in front of the Altima. Bruno was trapped in the backseat and had to be extricated by members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication and Rescue Team.
Bruno and Chris Gammons were transported by DeKalb EMS to a helicopter landing zone on Highway 70 at the intersection of Toad Road. One of them was airlifted by a Life Force helicopter and the other was flown out by an Air Evac helicopter. Mrs. Gammons was transported to DeKalb Community Hospital, where she was treated and released.
On the scene were Trooper Knowles of the THP, DeKalb EMS, Sheriff's Department deputies, DeKalb Fire Extrication and Rescue, and members of the Short Mountain Highway, Main Station, Liberty, and Cookeville Highway stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.
The original complaint against Hickey stated that he admitted to consuming four beers. Several field sobriety tasks were given. Hickey did not perform as demonstrated. Hickey was transported to the emergency room of the hospital for a blood alcohol test and then to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department for booking.
The vehicular homicide indictment against Hickey alleged that he "killed Chris Gammons by the operation of the motor vehicle and that the killing was the proximate result of Hickey's intoxication, constituting the offense of vehicular homicide".
The indictments for vehicular assault alleged that Hickey "recklessly did cause serious bodily injury to Cleva Gammons and Troy Bruno by the operation of a motor vehicle, and the serious bodily injury was the proximate result of Hickey's intoxication, constituting the offense of vehicular assault".
The indictment for DUI stated that Hickey "unlawfully did, while under the influence of an intoxicant and/or drugs, drive or was in physical control of an automobile or other motor driven vehicle upon the public roads and highways... constituting the offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant and/or drug, first offense".