5 time DUI offender accused in deadly Knoxville crash may get plea deal with parole eligibility after 6 years

Ben Woodruff

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The family of a man killed in a car crash involving a five-time DUI offender is speaking about the case for the first time.

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Ben Woodruff was killed on August 23, 2013 while traveling on Governor John Sevier Highway.  Authorities say Scott Spangler crossed the center line, crashing into Woodruff’s vehicle. causing the vehicle to then hit an SUV.

Spangler had five previous DUI convictions before the crash. Five others were injured, including the Woodruff’s son, Ethan, who has a severe brain injury.  The Woodruff’s are speaking because of a plea agreement in the case.

In days, a judge will decide if the agreement is fair. According to Woodruff’s attorney Darren Berg, Spangler has accepted a plea deal. Berg says on Thursday a judge will hear the plea agreement and either approve or reject the deal.  Berg says the deal is for Spangler to be sentenced to 20 years, but he will be eligible for parole after serving six years behind bars.  The deal doesn’t sit well with the Woodruff family.

Ben Woodruff was a husband and a father of two. His wife, Beth, says a day doesn’t go by when she doesn’t miss him.

“He was definitely my rock.  He was always there for me,” said Beth Woodruff.

Esther Wilson says her son is deeply missed.

“It’s like a big huge hole in your heart that has meant so much to you,” said Wilson.

In the accident, Woodruff’s son was injured so severely that he couldn’t walk or talk.

“We are still working on standing.  We are still working on sitting for lengths of time without falling over,” said Woodruff.

Before the accident, Woodruff’s son Ethan loved playing soccer.

“That little boy on the soccer field hitting the ball across the field because he kicks it so hard, we just don’t know if that will come back,” said Woodruff.

Five others were injured in the crash.

Woodruff’s attorney Darren Berg says the toxicology report has come back and Scott Spangler was found to have crack cocaine and Valium in his system.  Before the accident, court records show Spangler had five previous DUI convictions.

Spangler has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault. Berg says he met with the DA’s office and was told Spangler has agreed to a 20-year sentence.

“In this case he has to serve 30 percent of that as a range one standard offender.  He is eligible for parole in six years,” said Berg.

According to Berg, after four DUI convictions a person is charged with a felony.  Each DUI conviction after will be a felony. The length of time served before being eligible for parole is set by law.

“Twenty years is not enough, but six years is an insult,” said Woodruff.

Wilson says parole eligibility in six years is not justice for the death of her son and injuries to her grandson.

“Yes I do want justice, of course I do, but there are other innocent people out here that I don’t want to see this happen to them and their families either,” said Wilson.

6 News contacted the DA’s office and asked about the length of the sentence in the plea deal. According to the spokesperson for the DA’s office, they are unable to make any comment on pending plea agreements.

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