On May 31, Verdie Channing Compton, 29, of Council, Virginia was sentenced to 31 years of imprisonment following a legnthy sentencing hearing in the Buchanan County Circuit Court. In March, Compton pled guilty to DUID, Aggravated Involuntary Manslaugter, Maiming, and Hit and Run arising from his June 2011 collision with two motorcycles in the Council area that resulted in the death of William VanNortwick.
William VanNortwick, his two sons, Steve and Bill, and a friend had ridden from their home state of Florida to the Breaks and were passing through the Council area on their way home. During the sentencing hearing, witnesses testified that as the group of motorcycles entered a curve, Compton veered into the oncoming lane and struck Steve VanNortwick head on, throwing him about 15 feet into the air. This accident then caused William VanNortwick to lose control of his motorcycle and land on the roadway. Compton fled the scene and went to his home for a significant period of time before he returned to the crash site.
After Compton returned, witnesses described him as being disoriented, unsteady on his feet, and having slurred speech. According to the arresting officer, Compton admitted that he was driving home from the methadone clinic when the accident occurred. Laboratory results later showed that Compton was under the influence of what Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Arrington described as “a dangerous cocktail of methadone and Xanax.”
The VanNortwick sons testified that their father’s death had left their mother without her best friend and caretaker, a community without one of their greatest public servants, and a close knit family without their patriarch. They told the judge that their father, a devout christian, would have forgiven Mr. Compton but would have expected him to turn his life around and to accept an appropriate punishment for his actions.
Arrington argued that Compton’s reckless conduct was deserving of sentence above the sentencing guidelines’ recommended range and asked the Court to impose the maximum sentence of 35 years and order that Compton be incarcerated for at least fifteen years before being released on probation. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court sentenced Compton to thirty-one years and ordered that twenty-two years of that sentence be suspended upon Compton serving a nine-year prison sentence and completing nine years of supervised probation.
When asked for comment, Arrington stated that “this case clearly shows that when one chooses to drive impaired, that decision can have far reaching consquences. Compton deserved a lengthy sentence, and it should now be clear to all that my administration will show no mercy to those people whose selfish and reckless conduct takes innocent lives.”