Jury renders guilty verdict in vehicular homicide case

Published 8:39 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Carter County jury convicted a Butler man on a charge of vehicular homicide on Wednesday in connection with a fatal car crash in February 2016.

Jerry Ray Oaks, 35, of Piercetown Road, Butler, was found guilty of vehicular homicide by intoxication following the jury’s deliberations. The trial began on Tuesday morning and concluded Wednesday evening. Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice, who presided over the trial, scheduled a sentencing hearing for Oaks on Sept. 25.

Under state law, vehicular homicide by intoxication is categorized as a “Class B” felony. Oaks faces a possible sentence of between 3 and 30 years under state sentencing guidelines.

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Oaks had been out on bond at the time of the trial. After the jury rendered the guilty verdict, Rice revoked Oaks’ bond and ordered he be taken into custody by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office to await sentencing.

The charge against Oaks stems from a motor vehicle accident on February 13, 2016 that claimed the life of 47-year-old Viencen Hitechew, of Roan Mountain.

The accident happened around 11:20 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2016, on State Route 362 — locally known as Mary Patton Highway or “the new Gap Creek Road,” — near the intersection of the highway and Jim Elliott Road according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

In his initial report on the crash, THP Trooper Brad Proffitt said preliminary evidence indicated that Oaks was driving under the influence at the time of the accident. Proffitt had Oaks sent for testing to determine if any alcohol or drugs were present in his system at the time of the accident.

According to Proffitt, Oaks was driving a 2007 Jeep Commander northbound in the southbound lane of Highway 362. Oaks’ SUV struck the 2009 Lexus driven by Hitechew head-on, Proffitt said.

After the two vehicles had collided, Proffitt said both vehicles became “fully engulfed in flames.”

In September 2016 a Carter County Grand Jury handed down an indictment against Oaks charging him with vehicular homicide by intoxication.