A Delaware County man sobbed as he was sentenced on Monday, May 6 to six years in prison for the death of a Department of Transportation supervisor who was killed in a construction zone accident.
Robert Dryden Smith, 40, of Jay pleaded guilty in January in Delaware County District Court to first-degree manslaughter in the May 18, 2016, death of Jarrell Gray, 47, of Grove.
Gray suffered fatal injuries while he was supervising inmates who were removing brush in a construction zone on Oklahoma 20 west of Jay.
Smith’s westbound vehicle hit a Department of Corrections inmate work van and then hit Gray, who had been standing behind a wood chipper that was attached to an ODOT truck, according to an arrest affidavit.
Smith told law enforcement officers that he had been distracted because he was looking down at his cellphone, the affidavit states.
Gray, the father of three sons, had been with ODOT since December 1998.
Through tears, Smith told Gray’s family that he was sorry and that he could never forgive himself.
“I never had children and every holiday I think of the Gray children,” he said. “If I could take his place, I would.
"I take full responsibility.”
District Judge Barry Denney sentenced Smith to 25 years but suspended 19 of them.
Smith will be required to get his GED certificate and have an alcohol and mental health evaluation.
After he completes his prison term he will be on probation for 19 years and be required to perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Smith was fined $7,500 for the victim’s compensation fund, and should Gray’s family apply to the court, Smith could be responsible for funeral and counseling costs.
Gray’s mother, sister and former wife gave victim impact statements before Smith was sentenced, and prosecutor Nick Lelecas read a statement from Marc Gray, a brother.
All spoke about the son or brother “who would give the shirt off his back” and said they wanted “justice.”
“He was everything to me,” said Judy Gray, his mother, wiping her eyes. “He left three boys, and they are missing out on father-son milestones."
Lisa Lovelady, Gray’s sister, referred to the death of an older brother and a brother-in-law, saying “no mother should bury a child.”
“He was the most caring person I knew,” said Marc Gray’s statement. “I was able to pray with him a few days before his death.”
“The hardest part was all the firsts,” said Carra VanHook, Gray’s former wife. “First Father’s Day, first Christmas, first birthday.
“Now it’s all the future firsts he will miss. The first prom, the first graduation, the first marriage and the first grandchild."