A Guyton man pleaded guilty in Bryan County Superior Court on Tuesday to first degree vehicular homicide for a wreck that killed a Bryan County sheriff's deputy.
John Lynwood Smith, 25, of Guyton, also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence for the accident that killed Sgt. Mike Larson on Dec. 10, 2006.
Smith received 10 years of probation as a first offender. He will spend 2-1/2 years in a probation detention center and the rest on probation. He was facing 3 to 15 years in prison had he gone to trial and been found guilty.
If Smith violates any terms of his probation, he is facing removal of his first offender status and 15 years in jail.
He will remain in a rehabilitation halfway house until sometime in January, when bed space should be available in the detention center. Smith had voluntarily committed himself to the halfway house after being released on bond.
Larson was responding to a call for backup from another officer when he swerved to miss Smith’s incapacitated vehicle. It had been abandoned with the lights off in a lane of Highway 280, authorities said.
Larson’s car went over the embankment and into the trees, according to District Attorney Cris Schneider.
Larson left behind a wife, Lisa Larson, son Shawn Larson, 16, and daughters Megan Larson, 17, and Megan McFarland, 10.
"It’s hard, but we are doing OK. I’m OK with the plea," said Lisa Larson while fighting back tears. "He seemed very sorry for what he did."
Smith, clean-cut in a suit jacket, tie and slacks portrayed a much different picture than the mug shot taken at his arrest nearly two years ago.
"I would like for the court and the family of Officer Larson to know that I take full responsibilities for my actions in the accident that caused the loss of his life," Smith said as he entered his plea to Judge David Cavender. "I have never intentionally done anything that would cause harm to anyone, and I am deeply troubled and haunted by the events of that tragic night," Smith said.
"I hope that Officer Larson’s family can accept my sincere apology for tragedy that — for the tragedy that has caused them so much grief and changed their lives forever and one day find a way to forgive me. Since the night of the accident, I have made every effort to change my life by voluntarily admitting myself to a treatment center, joining Alcoholics Anonymous, and staying drug- and alcohol-free so I can assure that my actions never cause such pain to anyone again. Hopefully, at some time in the future, I will prevent someone else from making the same terrible mistakes I did," he said.
Smith’s attorney, Keith Barber of Statesboro, said the loss of life is a sad thing on any occasion.
"We have a father taken from his children and a wife without a husband and other relatives impacted in a devastating way," Barber said. "We also have a young man here who’s having to learn a hard lesson in life, that you’re responsible for your actions. And, if we could turn the clock back, we would, but we all know that we can’t. But he can change today, and he can change himself, and I think he has started on that road."
Schneider said the defendant seemed truly remorseful for his actions.
"This has not been an easy case for anyone, but Smith has made a genuine effort to turn himself around," he said.