Man found guilty of manslaughter in 2013 wreck

Published 12:47 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Covington County jury deliberated for a little more than two hours Friday afternoon before finding Wyatt Vogail Sexton, 23, of McKenzie, guilty of manslaughter.

Sexton was indicted in the 2013 the death of Linda Knight of Georgiana.

Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell prosecuted the case and said, “It’s been a rough three years for Linda’s family, but I’m glad that they finally have closure and we have some measure of justice.”

According to Star-News archives, Knight was traveling from Georgiana to Andalusia on March 28, 2013, when she struck two deer on Hwy. 55 north of Red Level. She was en route to her job at the Andalusia Walmart, where she was a customer service manager. She was just shy of her 48th birthday.

She suffered minor injuries when her vehicle struck the deer.

Witnesses testified at trial that they stopped to not only render aid, but also to warn and divert traffic so as to prevent a collision, according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.

Karen Lehto of Canton, Ga., testified that she was using a flashlight to flag down traffic headed northbound on 55. She testified that four or five cars had come through the accident scene at a slow rate of speed and heeded the warnings. Lehto then testified that the defendant’s car approached, “like a rocket,” and hit Knight’s car head-on. Lehto and three other eyewitnesses all testified that Sexton was traveling at a high rate of speed and that he never tried to slow down before impact.

The State offered two witnesses who testified that Sexton had been at a friend’s house in Andalusia immediately prior to the wreck. Both of those witnesses testified that Sexton had been drinking, despite the fact that he was only 20 at the time. One testified that she was concerned about Sexton’s ability to drive from the gathering, so she offered him a ride, but he declined.

State Trooper Matt Rice testified that he was called to work the scene of the wreck. According to his reconstruction, Sexton was traveling northbound at a high rate of speed, striking Knight’s car. Knight was seated in the driver’s seat and, as a consequence of the collision, she was ejected and thrown across two lanes of traffic. She died on the scene.

Rice also testified that the momentum of Sexton’s car then carried it past the initial point of impact, where it collided with two more vehicles. Rice testified that, based on his measurements, Knight’s car, which was parked, was projected 160 feet after the impact. Sexton was airlifted from the scene, but made a full recovery.

“It truly is a tragedy. Linda Knight died senselessly because of a combination of speed, reckless decisions and alcohol,” Merrell said in a statement. “There are a lot of young people today who disregard the risks attendant with driving a vehicle. I hope that someone reads about this death and this conviction and they don’t take the same kind of risks that Mr. Sexton did. If anything good comes out of this, let that be it.”

Circuit Court Judge Charles “Lex” Short, who presided at the two-day trial, set sentencing for July 21, 2016.  Manslaughter is a Class B felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison.