A Floyd County woman who was scheduled for trial this week on murder, assault and DUI charges related to a crash that killed a Floyd County woman opted instead to plead guilty to lesser charges.
On Thursday, Kimberly Akers, 45, of Frasure’s Branch in Grethel, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and DUI.
Her trial was scheduled to start on Monday, but officials report that she decided last week to change her plea following negotiations with the Floyd County Commonwealth Attorney’s office. The plea came after the family of one of the victims in the case, Heidi Ann Hamilton, asked the court to order Akers to complete inpatient substance abuse treatment.
At the request of the family, Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner recommended a sentence of 10 years for manslaughter and two years for assault, for a total sentence of 12 years for Akers, suspended after the service of six years, with the balance set to be probated for five years under the condition that Akers enter and complete drug treatment before sentencing.
Turner said if Akers does not complete the drug treatment program before sentencing, she will face the full 12 years behind bars.
Akers was indicted last year on charges of murder and assault for a Dec. 14, 2017, crash that killed Hamilton, 38, of Craynor, and injured her finance Chris Hamilton, 38. Chris Hamilton reported after Akers’ arraignment last year that he and his finance were on their way home from visiting family when the crash occurred.
Akers was driving under the influence of drugs when the crash occurred. Court documents showed the Commonwealth planned to call law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians and medical personnel to testify at trial.
Akers was released from custody after her indictment last year, but her bond was revoked after she failed drug tests.
Accepting the guilty plea, Circuit Judge Johnny Ray Harris informed Akers that he has the authority to accept or deny that plea recommendation when she is sentenced. He also called Hamilton’s sister Heather Tackett to the stand to ask if the family agrees with the sentencing recommendation. He explained to her that he would have to release Akers on bond prior to sentencing so she can attend drug treatment.
“The family is in agreement,” Tackett said.
Harris said he usually does not release those who plead guilty prior to sentencing, but said he would agree with the family’s request in this case.
Tackett, 42, who walked away from the bench with tears, attended the hearing with Hamilton’s son Dalton, who graduated high school without his mother in attendance.
Tackett explained how the family is forever changed.
“My mom cried every day, every morning for a straight year,” Tackett said. “I don’t know if she still does that or not. We don’t really talk about it anymore. But, Dalton, his kids aren’t going to experience the funnest grandma in the world. They’re not going to get to be spoiled by her. He didn’t get to have her in the graduation stands to see him get is diploma and she’s not going to be there for his wedding. And we don’t get her at Thanksgiving or Christmas.”
She described Hamilton as “amazing,” saying that after she died people have shared stories with her about how her sister helped them.
“She’s a very special person. Loving and giving. Fun, witty. She was quite the crackerjack,” Tackett said. “But she’s missed, all the time.”
When asked why the family requested an opportunity for Akers to get rehabilitation, Tackett said her sister believed in second chances.
“We knew she was looking at a lot of time, but ... Heidi believed in second chances, and that’s just where our hearts were moving,” said Tackett. “We just wanted to make sure that, you know, she was held accountable for what she did and that she took some responsibility for it. But we also wanted her to have a chance of becoming a — a chance at a new life for herself, for her family, for us, and for us to be able to rest not thinking that somebody will; it’ll happen again to somebody else.”
She also said, “We just hope that a difference is made.”
“Most importantly, I want it to show others, to deter people that would think about getting behind the wheel and drinking or impaired in any way ... There’s just too much of that on the roads and we hope that’s a deterrent,” she said.
In addition to her finance, sister and son, Heidi Ann Hamilton left behind her parents, Harold Newsome of Ohio and Susan Gillepie Newsome of North Carolina and other family members and friends. She was buried in the family cemetery at Craynor.
Harris set Akers’ sentencing for Feb. 20. He said Akers would be held without bond until the court receives notice that a substance abuse treatment bed is available, and, he said once bond is posted, Akers will have one hour to drive to the facility in Louisa.
Turner hopes the case keeps people from driving while impaired.
“We have a lot of people who drive while impaired from prescription medications, which is what happened here,” he stated. “This is just another example of how dangerous that is. The family lost a loved one and that should not have happened. The victim’s family was adamant that the defendant get drug treatment before serving her prison sentence and we are hopeful she will take advantage of that.”