A 54-year-old Rockmart man was sentenced to 30 years — with the first eight to serve in prison — after pleading guilty to three counts of first degree vehicular homicide in Bartow Superior Court Tuesday morning.
According to Rome Judicial Circuit Judge Tami P. Colston, who was filling in for Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge David K. Smith, Scottie Lee Worfford faced a maximum sentence of 51 years in prison for charges stemming from an accident on Highway 411 on Sept. 16, 2016, which claimed the lives of 25-year-old Deneisha S. Washington, of Dalton, and two of her children — 2-year-old Iyan’na Bynum and 11-months-old Octavian Bynum.
Shamya Washington, 8, also was injured in the collision and had to be airlifted for emergency medical treatment.
According to Cherokee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Side, the 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee operated by Washington appeared to have shut down inside the left eastbound lane of Highway 411 close to Cowan Drive around 11:30 p.m.
Side said crash scene investigators determined that the switch to the vehicle was on, but it remains unknown whether the lights on the Jeep Grand Cherokee were functional when it was struck from behind by a 2004 Dodge Ram pickup truck operated by Worfford.
Investigators believe Worfford was traveling between 85-90 miles per hour when he hit Washington’s vehicle.
“Upon impact, those vehicles remained together,” Side said. “They slid, attached to each other, for about 151 feet.”
Side said the defendant remained on scene following the collision, stating that several witnesses saw him exit his vehicle, enter a wooded area and return to his truck — “maybe placing something in the bed of his truck.”
Side said that law enforcement officials found prescription muscle relaxers in the defendant’s vehicle, but Georgia Bureau of Investigation examiners determined that the drugs were not present in Worfford's system. Nor did investigators determine Worfford was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision.
But investigators did find something in the defendant’s system — although Side never mentioned, precisely, what that substance was.
“The trooper who investigated the case and initially responded did believe this defendant was under the influence of a drug at that time, although he could not say what drug,” Side said. “What they did find was a synthetic substance in his system, which the effects are, at this point, unknown, because people react differently to that substance.”
Initially charged with six counts of homicide by vehicle in the first degree, prosecutors dropped three of those charges against the defendant, as well as one count of driving under the influence, as part of a negotiated plea deal.
Worfford received a 30-year sentence — with eight to serve in confinement and the remainder to be served on probation — plus a $1,000 fine for the first count of first degree vehicular homicide. He received concurrent 30-year, eight-to-serve sentences for the other two counts of first degree vehicular homicide.
He additionally received concurrent 12-months-to-serve sentences for improper tires and failure to dim headlights, which run concurrent with the vehicular homicide sentences. Individual counts of reckless driving, following too closely, speeding and too fast for conditions were likewise merged into the sentence.
Although eligible under the Georgia First Offender Act, Worfford opted to forego that sentencing option after consultation with public defender Ed Dettmar.
Worfford will receive credit for time served dating back to Sept. 17-Sept. 29, 2016.
As part of his special conditions of probation, Worfford is ordered to complete 120 hours of community service, undergo a substance abuse evaluation and participate in a DUI risk reduction program.
He is also ordered to refrain from having any contact with the family of the victims.
Yolanda Washington, the mother of the 25-year-old victim and grandmother of the two children killed in the crash, briefly addressed the defendant.
“I wrote a thing, but I don’t even want to read it — Mr. Worfford, I forgive you,” she said before exiting the court in tears.