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S.C. Man Pleads Guilty in DUI Death

December 3, 2002

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) _ A man with a history of drunken driving convictions pleaded guilty Monday to avoid a murder trial set to begin this week.

Jerry Carruth, 55, who was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair, admitted to a lesser charge of driving under the influence during a crash that resulted in death.

Carruth had been convicted of drunken driving a half-dozen times in the past 11 years. However, he often avoided jail time by saying he would never be able to drive again because he was ``severely handicapped and paralyzed.″

Carruth faces up to 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine at his sentencing, which was not immediately set.

The April wreck killed Tony Howard, a 42-year-old father of three whose his pickup truck was hit head-on by Carruth’s car.

Defense attorney John White said Carruth was partially paralyzed from a spinal injury suffered in a 1984 car wreck and is a borderline diabetic. He requires a catheter and has limited use of his right arm.

Court records show Carruth had been convicted of driving under the influence six times in the past 11 years in North Carolina and South Carolina, although he had never faced felony charges until now. Although court records are unavailable for at least two of his arrests, he appears to have spent no more than a week in jail and 60 days under house arrest.

Murder charges in an auto crash are unusual but not unprecedented. There have been cases this year in Alabama, New Mexico and California. In North Carolina, a jury convicted a man of first-degree murder in a drunken driving trial, though the state Supreme Court later overturned the verdict.

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