An Athens man convicted of driving drunk and causing a fatal wreck in 2011 will serve seven years in prison for the crime, an official said.
James Marvin Wells, 49, pleaded guilty to murder, first-degree assault and driving under the influence Friday afternoon in Limestone County Circuit Court.
He was accused of causing a July 2 wreck on U.S. 72 West that killed Salah Mohsen Qofaan, 29, and injured Anthony Merwin Draper, 60, a passenger in Wells’ vehicle.
“This is a very grave reminder of what can happen even your first time to drink and drive and automobile — that you can kill someone and go to prison,” Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones said.
In accordance with the plea agreement between Wells and the District Attorney’s Office, Circuit Judge Jimmy Woodroof Jr. sentenced Wells to the following:
• Twenty years in prison on the murder conviction, with the sentence split so Wells will serve five years in prison;
• Ten years on the assault conviction, with the sentence split so Wells will serve two years in prison;
• One year on the DUI conviction, with the sentence to run concurrently with the other two sentences;
• Five years on supervised probation.
Jones believes the sentence is fair.
“This has been horrible for everyone,” the district attorney said. “This was Wells’ first offense, he had no priors. He was contrite and he came in and took his punishment. We did the maximum amount on a split sentence we could do, and the reason we did the split is because we wanted the defendant to get a definite amount of time in prison.”
Because of the split sentences, Wells will have to serve the full seven years where as otherwise he might have been released earlier due to good time and prison overcrowding, Jones said.
Jones believes the victim’s family is satisfied with the sentence.
“I talked to the widow Saturday morning and they were pleased,” Jones said. “They wanted him to do some time to where he would understand what he did but they also wanted him to have some closure.”
Wells, who had been free on bail, was taken into custody after the sentencing and sent to Kilby state prison for classification. From there he will be sent to one of the other state facilities to serve out his sentence, the district attorney said.
Investigators said Wells was driving a 1998 Chevrolet Silverado on the wrong side of U.S. 72 West in the Clements community when he collided head-on with Qofaan’s 2004 Toyota Matrix.