WISE, VA. - Tony Curtis Osborne, age 39, of Pound, Virginia, pleaded guilty today in the Wise County Circuit Court for a crime he committed in February 2019 involving the death of a woman traveling northbound on US-23. Judge Ron Elkins accepted Osborne's guilty plea today to involuntary manslaughter as agreed upon by the Commonwealth and defense council.
On February 2, 2019, Iris Walker was driving north on US-23 when a 30-foot high tree that Osborne cut from a hill overlooking the road smashed into her car flattening the front of the cab. The car continued on for about 500 feet before coming to a stop in a ditch beside the road. Ms. Walker was deceased before anyone could render medical assistance.
Osborne's recklessness killed a woman who was doing nothing more than driving down the highway. He cut a 30-foot high tree located 50 feet from a busy highway causing it to fall into traffic. The tree was not on his property, and he did not have permission to fall the tree. He was not working for VDOT. He did not set warnings for traffic. He did not close off the closest lane of traffic. He did not attempt to anchor the tree so it could not fall toward the road. He did not cut the tree so it would fall uphill. Upon arrest, he informed the magistrate he sold firewood at $60 a load, and he had been doing this for two years.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, Ken Lammers, was the lead prosecutor on this case. Lammers says, "Tony Osborne engaged in a highly dangerous activity with the obvious potential to harm or kill people driving down a busy highway. It did exactly that. Osborne is the sole reason that Iris Walker is dead, and for that killing he is now convicted of manslaughter. He deserves this conviction. This man was engaged in the illegal harvesting of a tree from someone else's land at a location where the risk to the lives of anyone who happened to be on the highway below was blatantly obvious. Iris Walker didn't deserve to be killed, and Osborne deserves to be held responsible for taking her life."
Commonwealth's Attorney, Brett Hall, would like to thank all the agencies and individuals involved in bringing this matter to a close, including those people who stopped to help, the emergency crews who responded to the scene, and the Virginia State Police who investigated this matter. In particular, he would like to commend Sergeant Marshall of the VSP for the work he put into investigating this matter. "These are difficult cases for everyone involved, and Sergeant Marshall's continuing efforts have helped to ensure this case was resolved appropriately."
A sentencing hearing on this manslaughter plea has been scheduled for July 21, 2023.