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Man pleads guilty in Interstate 64 death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Charleston man pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the Interstate 64 death of a Scott Depot driver a year ago.

Other charges against Thomas Paul Sturm, 26, were dismissed, including a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

Police and prosecutors said Sturm was driving a pickup truck under 30 mph near the Cross Lanes exit about 1:15 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2011. He was hauling a truck on a trailer that had no lights.

William Zachary Hudnall, 25, struck that trailer with his Toyota Celica. Hudnall's car was struck by a Ford Cargo van driven by David Westover, 56, of South Charleston, which pushed Hudnall into the path of a Buick LaSabre driven by Mark Puryear, 45, of Louisa, Ky.

Hudnall died after being transported to a Charleston hospital.

Sturm fled the scene after the accident, and police were led to him on an anonymous tip. He was arrested and indicted by a grand jury on several counts. Negligent homicide is a misdemeanor.  

On Monday, Sturm told Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrier Webster he is unemployed and living on a disability check because he reads at a second-grade level. He is the father of four young children.

He faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison. Webster will sentence Sturm next month. 

Hudnall was a student at West Virginia State University and was a 2004 graduate of Winfield High School.

Members of Hudnall's family attended the plea hearing, some of them wearing photographs of him pinned to their clothing. They didn't want to speak to reporters.

Sturm's attorney, John Carr, said Sturm entered the plea as a Kennedy-Frazier plea. In that type of plea agreement, the defendant doesn't admit guilt but concedes there is enough evidence to convict him at a trial.

"He accepts the conviction," Carr told the judge. "He was charged with a number of things. We decided what our chances were at a trial and decided to accept the plea. "He would not be able to state that he was operating a vehicle in a reckless manner," he said.


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