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Grovetown man who caused son's death pleads guilty to vehicular homicide

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 2:48 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 1, 2013 7:45 PM
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NOTE: The name of the toddler was misspelled in this article in Wednesday’s edition of The Augusta Chronicle. Devin Grates died in 2011. The Chronicle regrets the error.

A Grovetown man who caused his son’s death at the end a two-day methamphetamine binge pleaded guilty Tuesday.

James Grates Jr., 29, entered his pleas in Richmond County Superior Court to vehicular homicide, vehicular injury and traffic offenses for the July 27, 2011, crash that took his son’s life.

Devin Grates was 3 years old and incorrectly secured in a child seat when his father crashed his vehicle into a concrete pole at 50-60 mph. According to an eyewitness, Grates was asleep or unconscious when his truck drifted into the left lane, over the median and into the lanes on the other side of the highway, said Assistant District Attorney Natalie Paine. The witness and accident investigators reported that Grates never hit the brakes.

Devin suffered severe brain trauma, his spine was snapped and he received other internal injuries. His physician said there was no hope of recovery, Paine said. Devin’s mother gave permission to disconnect the child from life support Aug. 16, 2011.

Grates and Shannon Zumwalt, a passenger inhis truck, also were severely injured.

Blood tests revealed meth and marijuana in Grates’ system, and a witness told investigators Grates had been on a two-day meth binge before the crash, Paine said.

James Walker, of the public defender office, told the judge that Grates is devastated about the crash. He had raised Devin since he was 9 months old.

“Words can’t describe how bad he feels about this,” Walker said.

Walker asked for leniency for Grates.

Paine asked for at least 10 years of imprisonment. Grates had a criminal record that included burglary, manufacturing meth, battery and driving under the influence.

Judge Sheryl B. Jolly sentenced Grates to five years in prison, followed by 10 years on probation. Grates will get credit for the 11 months his spent in jail after his arrest.

The maximum punishment was 34 years.

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InChristLove
22473
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InChristLove 07/30/13 - 03:38 pm
9
3
Seriously? 5 years He had a

Seriously? 5 years

He had a criminal record which included burglary, meth manufacturing, battery and DUI. Then on a 2 day binge he zones out and kills his 3 year old son and he gets 5 years.

I'm sorry I'm having a difficult time feeling sorry for this man. What a horrible decision to place on mother. It could not have been easy. Dang...this just ruined my day!

chascushman
6653
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chascushman 07/30/13 - 03:41 pm
6
2
"Seriously? 5 years" I agree,
Unpublished

"Seriously? 5 years"
I agree, he should have gotten 3X that

jimmymac
39881
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jimmymac 07/30/13 - 03:55 pm
6
3
5 years
Unpublished

This is another example of a judge and prosecutor going soft on a career criminal. This guy should have been charged with homicide and gotten at least 20 years in prison. It's time to start holding these judges responsible for the crimes these repeat offenders commit. Remember them and the prosecutor at election time.

corgimom
32458
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corgimom 07/30/13 - 04:21 pm
5
4
He'll be out in a few months,

He'll be out in a few months, so he can do it again.

CricketSeranade
593
Points
CricketSeranade 07/30/13 - 04:30 pm
7
2
My heart bleeds...

"James Walker, of the public defender office, told the judge that Grates is devastated about the crash."

Boo-freakin-hoo. Cry me a river. He ought to be sitting on Death Row. If it was me, I'd be begging for the death penalty so I wouldn't have to go on living knowing what I did to my baby. But no, he asks for leniency.

Yeah, I can tell he's real tore up about it.

rmwhitley
5547
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rmwhitley 07/30/13 - 05:11 pm
0
0
From some
Unpublished

past comments, this shouldn't be news. Five years for killing someone else while strung out. Punk should have been shot on the scene of the MURDER.

dichotomy
32962
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dichotomy 07/30/13 - 05:34 pm
8
2
Jolly......you just have to

Jolly......you just have to wonder which side she is on....and how the hell she got to be a judge.

A criminal history, multiple serious crimes, you finally kill you 5 year old child while on a meth binge........and Jolly slaps your wrist with a short sentence and credit for time served. It won't be long before he is back on the streets and killing someone else.

If this one didn't cry out for the maximum sentence they I don't know what does. Jolly might as well have kissed him and invited him home for dinner and drinks.

oldredneckman96
5095
Points
oldredneckman96 07/30/13 - 07:32 pm
4
2
Drugs
Unpublished

Drugs, they are the center of this story and some morons want to legalize them. Put drug dealers in jail for life, end this sad story now.

shrimp for breakfast
5456
Points
shrimp for breakfast 07/31/13 - 02:33 am
5
2
I must agree with the other posters

This man had a rap sheet that included burglary and manufacturing Meth. Both are felonies. The battery could have been but I don't know. To top it all off a previous DUI in which by the grace of God he didn't kill someone.
Then he kills his son and injures a passenger.
Add it all up and he only receives 5 years?
I'm no judge but then it appears neither is Sheryl B. Jolly.

lifelongresident
1323
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lifelongresident 07/31/13 - 10:12 am
0
0
"yo hona', i's only gots one
Unpublished

"yo hona', i's only gots one think to say...meth, its a helluva drug"

Fiat_Lux
15424
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/31/13 - 11:17 am
0
0
And a child molester in her court

got the exact same sentence for having sex with a 15-year-old he thought was legal. (And what a big surprise he would say that.)

Is this judge stuck on stupid? Does she simply not appreciate the stunning differences between these two crimes?

cakes47
10
Points
cakes47 07/31/13 - 07:28 pm
1
3
No surprise here!

This sentence is no surprise to me. I know the details of this accident and just as the information in this article is completely inaccurate, I'm sure what was presented to the court was just as fabricated. And, it doesn't really matter what room someone is sitting in...if they killed their own child...it IS a life sentence.

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