MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - A Fayetteville man was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday for his involvement in a crash that killed a 19-year-old girl.
Christopher Ross, 20, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in the 2015 wreck that killed 19-year-old Toniette Katherine Piccinich. Judge Jim Smith sentenced him.
Court records show 20-year-old Christopher Ross, who was 19 at the time of the fatal crash, entered a guilty plea to charges of manslaughter, assault and leaving the scene of an accident.
The crash happened in May of 2015 at the intersection of Highway 53 and Mastin Lake Road in Huntsville. Officers said Ross was speeding west on Mastin Lake when he ran a red light, hitting Piccinich's car. The force of the impact caused her car to hit another vehicle that was stopped at a red light. The passenger in the third car was taken to Huntsville Hospital at that time with serious but non-life threatening injuries.
Madison County Assistant District Attorney Shauna Barnett said blood tests showed Ross was severely intoxicated at the time of the crash. He'd told police he'd consumed about a fifth of gin and also drank beer
"Several hours after the wreck, they got the first blood drawn, he was still above a .22, which is pretty insanely high," Barnett said.
The DUI range for anyone 21 or older, in Alabama is .08 or above.
Driver under 21 face a more stringent standard, .02.
Ross apologized to the court and also addressed Picchinich's family seated in the courtroom.
He said he knew they might not be able to forgive him, but said, "I ask for it, please."
Barnett said the Piccinich family was devastated by Toni Piccinich's death.
"She’s got two sisters, Toni did, and in addition to being sad, they were outraged at the loss of their sister," Barnett said. "And so, a year and a half later they still can’t speak about it in public. That kind of shows what it does to families."
Barnett said she accepted the judge's sentence.
"It’s a just sentence, I understand why the judge did what he did," she said. "I don’t disagree with the judge. It’s never a correct sentence when it comes to the families, but nothing we can do can ever make their family whole."
Defense attorney Brice Callaway had asked the court for a sentence that was just and "not greater than necessary. He said Ross had one prior charge for marijuana against him. At the time of the crash he'd just graduated high school and had gotten a job at an air conditioner plant in Fayetteville. Callaway said on the night of the crash Ross had come to Huntsville with someone else, got left at a party and drank heavily.
Callaway called the crash a tragedy for the families involved, while acknowledging the loss the Piccinich family has experienced. He said Ross is remorseful.
"He thinks about it every day, that he can’t do anything to bring that life back, or assuage the pain of the person that was injured," Callaway said.
Police said Ross tried to run from the scene, but witnesses were able to catch him until police could take him into custody.