Travis Lee Tolliver, age 31 of Jackson, Ohio, was sentenced today in the Wise County Circuit Court for crimes that he committed in February 2021 involving a wrong-way driver associated traffic fatality on U.S. Highway 23 in the City of Norton. Tolliver was convicted on August 2, 2021 of aggravated vehicular manslaughter, felony maiming of another in the commission of driving a vehicle while intoxicated with reckless disregard, and driving a vehicle while intoxicated. He pleaded guilty without a plea agreement from prosecutors, meaning that a judge determined the appropriate punishment at the sentencing hearing today.
At the sentencing hearing, the Court imposed a punishment of 26 years in prison with 4 years suspended. Thus, Tolliver will serve an active term of incarceration of 22 years behind bars. He will be placed on 5 years of supervised probation following his sentence.
On February 24, 2021, law enforcement responded to an emergency call of a crash involving a wrong-way driver on Route 23 South over Route 58A at approximately mile marker 43.3 in Wise County. Upon arriving at the crash, law enforcement learned that a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze was in the Southbound lane on Route 23 when it was hit head on by a 1997 International Truck Model # 9400. The Chevrolet Cruze was driven by Amanda Gail Pearson who was maimed in the crash and was flown to Bristol Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. Perry Shea Owens was the passenger in the Cruze, who ultimately succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The International Truck was driven by Travis Lee Tolliver and was traveling in the wrong direction at the time of the crash.
During the investigation Tolliver was interviewed and admitted to operating his commercial truck on the wrong side of the road when he hit Ms. Pearson and Mr. Owens head-on. An analysis of Tolliver's blood by the Department of Forensic Science revealed that Tolliver was under the influence of Methamphetamine, Fentanyl and Amphetamines at the time of crash which resulted in the maiming of Ms. Pearson and the death of Mr. Owens.
Evidence was presented at today's hearing that Tolliver had been previously convicted of larceny, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and drug related charges in Jackson County, Ohio.
The Commonwealth was represented today by Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Steven Davis and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Corey Salyers.
Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Steven Davis explained to the Court, "Under Virginia law, someone operating a motor vehicle with 0.1 or more milligrams of methamphetamine per liter of blood is presumed to be under the influence. In this case, the defendant had 17 times the presumptive amount in his blood. It's unbelievable that someone with this level of intoxication could barely function, let alone drive an enormous vehicle on the highway."
Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp said, "We place the utmost faith and trust in our commercial motor vehicle operators to be the best drivers on the road. Operating a multi-ton truck at high rates of speed is unbelievably dangerous. The utter disregard for the safety of others in this case is unthinkable, driving a big rig while intoxicated by 17 times over the presumptive intoxicated amount of methamphetamine. There are no words to sufficiently describe it. Likewise, to take an innocent life in such a senseless manner is unbelievable. I believe that there is no sentence severe enough to sufficiently punish it and that is why we asked the Court to impose the maximum punishment available under Virginia law."Slemp said, "Our prayers go out to the family of the victim in this case and hope that today's sentence will give them closure."
Various law enforcement agencies participated in this matter including Norton Police Department, Virginia State Police, and Wise County Sheriff's Office. In particular the Commonwealth would like to recognize Senior Trooper Ryan Stiltner who led the investigation in this matter and the diligent efforts of Norton City Police Officer Jason McConnell and the other first responders who provided emergency treatment to the victims at the scene.
Tolliver remains in the custody of the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail at Duffield while awaiting transfer to the Virginia Department of Corrections to begin serving his sentence.