- [S73] Rawlings Funeral Home, Book 2, 5 Sep 1973.
Bertha Finchum obituary
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 12 Sep 2006.
Man & dog killed when truck slams into house
(c)2006 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL The couch on which accident victim Chucky Finchum was sleeping when struck by a truck is seen in this Monday morning photo off Hwy. 411. Finchum's older brother, Pilk Finchum, said the truck plowed through the house, hitting and killing Chucky Finchum. Dr. Edward Smith, optometrist of Sevierville, was driving the truck.
By: DAVID POPIEL
Source: The Newport Plain Talk
Chucky Finchum and his pet dog never knew what hit them when a truck smashed into the family home place off Highway 411 just across the Sevier Co. line early Sunday night.
Finchum, 57, was killed instantly about 6:40 p.m., when a Toyota four-wheel drive pickup driven by Dr. Edward Smith left the highway, crossed the intersection road for Forbidden Caverns and crashed into the house. A few more feet to the driver's left and the Sevierville optometrist's truck would have been stopped dead by a giant sycamore tree.
The victim's wife, the former Michelle Moss, of Newport, was in an adjoining room-only feet away-while her husband rested on the couch in the living room. The back of the couch faced the porch where the truck entered at high speed. Finchum's older brother, Pilk Finchum, who lives across the side street heard the crash and ran to the house. He found the Toyota truck and driver in the living room. Mrs. Finchum had been injured.
"I liked never to have found him," he said of his brother who was buried in broken furniture and debris after his couch was pushed into the kitchen. A blood smear on the floor indicated the devastating impact.
Dr. Smith, 56, of Kodak, was conscious but reportedly suffered broken bones and was flown by medical helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where he is listed in stable condition.
Pilk Finchum said that Chucky had been suffering with cancer and had finished his last treatment. In fact, he and the Finchum families had organized a cancer benefit for their neighbor, Roger Banks on Saturday night.
The large tent and chairs were still on the Finchum property and not far off Hwy. 411. "It's a good thing it didn't happen Sat. or a lot of people might have been killed," he said.
The familiar frame house was the homeplace of the Finchums-children of Hicks and Bertha Finchum, all of whom are well known in Chestnut Hill and Cocke County. On Monday morning, yellow crime scene tape was still stretched around a section of the house. Pilk Finchum pointed to the sycamore damaged by the truck and said that he was a boy when the tree was a sapling. He is 66.
Chuck and Michelle Finchum had a pair of Jack Russell dogs they named Thelma and Louise. It was one of these pets that was killed and found in the rubble. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the investigation results will be turned over to the attorney general's office, which will determine if any charges will be pursued.
- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 10 Sep 2006.
Chucky Michael Finchum
August 09, 1949 - September 10, 2006
Birthplace: Sevier County, Tennessee
Resided In: Sevierville Tennessee USA
Visitation: September 14, 2006
Service: September 14, 2006
Chucky Michael Finchum, born August 9, 1949 of Sevierville, passed away Sunday, September 10, 2006. He was a man who loved life and lived it to its fullest. He always had a joke to tell or a prank to pull. Chucky enjoyed camping and riding horses with family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Hix and Bertha Finchum; brother, R.C. Finchum; niece, Cindy Coleman Wilson.
Chucky will be sadly missed by many.
Wife: Michele Finchum
Dogs: Pink and Louise
Sisters: Golda Coleman, Ann Derrick and husband Hal of Sevierville
Brothers: Burnett “Pilk” Finchum and wife Vicki of Sevierville, Twain Finchum and wife Jinnie of Newport
Sister-in-law: June Finchum
Nieces and nephews: Terry, Blake and Chad Finchum, Amy Finchum Love, Kim Derrick Frazier, Vicki Coleman Houk
Many friends including very special friend: Roger “Lodestone” Banks
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you donate to the “Adopt a Wild Horse” Program, Bureau of Land Management, Attn: Wild Horse and Burro Program, 7450 Boston Blvd., Springfield, VA, 22153 (www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov), or the American Cancer Society, Sevier County Unit, 411 Ashley Avenue, Pigeon Forge, TN, 37863.
The family will receive friends 4-7 PM Thursday with memorial service to follow at 7 PM in the West Chapel of Atchley Funeral Home. Pastor John Clark and Pastor Jerry Colbert will officiate. Arrangements by Atchley Funeral Home, Sevierville. (www.atchleyfuneralhome.com)
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 13 Sep 2006.
Driver had been issued DUI citation
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer September 13, 2006
Curt Habraken/The Mountain Press
Tennessee State trooper Randy Hartsell, a sergeant with the agency’s Critical Incident Response Team, plots the scene Monday morning of a fatal vehicle accident.
SEVIERVILLE - Chuck Finchum was an optimist, the life of the community, his niece says. He had reason to be so happy. He had just learned his cancer was in remission.
And then Sunday night it all came crashing down. A vehicle driven by a local optometrist - who had been issued a DUI citation earlier this month - slammed into the enclosed porch of Finchum's house while he slept on a couch there. Finchum, 57, was killed. It happened around 6:30 p.m.
A truck driven by Dr. Edward W. Smith, 56, of 306 Grandview Drive in Kodak, apparently left the road, struck a tree in Finchum's yard at 4100 Newport Highway and went into the house. It happened around 6:30 p.m.
Smith was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where officials said Monday afternoon he was in stable condition.
The accident is still being investigated, and a team from Tennessee Highway Patrol was at the house Monday morning to try to reconstruct what happened.
Officials with the Knox County Sheriff's Department confirmed what Sevier County sheriff's officers had said on Monday: Smith had been booked at the jail in Knoxville on Sept. 1 on charges of driving under the influence.
Officials with the Sevier County Sheriff's Department say they had gone to Smith's home shortly before the wreck after a relative of Smith's called the department saying she was concerned about the optometrist's emotional state.
Reports that a suicide note was found inside Smith's truck are not true, according to several law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.
Finchum's niece, Amy Love, said her uncle had learned shortly before his death that the lung cancer which had plagued him appeared to be in remission.
Finchum had helped host an auction Saturday to raise money for a friend who also has lung cancer, Love said. The tent used for that auction was still standing at the home of Finchum's brother, who lives across from Finchum's home.
Helping others was just typical behavior for her uncle, Love said.
"He's everybody's good friend," she said. "He was the life of the community."
District Attorney Jimmy Dunn said Monday night he had talked with officers involved in the investigation on two occasions, but said it's too early to discuss what might happen in the case. He said the incident remains under investigation.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 20 Sep 2006.
Report: Smith meant to kill self
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer
September 20, 2006
SEVIERVILLE - A local optometrist told authorities he meant to kill himself when he drove his car through a Newport Highway home Sept. 10, killing the man inside.
Dr. Edward W. Smith was distraught and driving at a high rate of speed when he left Newport Highway and drove into the yard of Chuck Finchum, according to the state trooper report. Smith's pickup struck a tree in Finchum's front yard but ricocheted into Finchum's home, killing him as he slept on his couch.
Smith "was extremely distraught, screaming for someone to kill him," trooper Sandra Massengill wrote in her report. "He stated he had tried to hit the tree to kill himself."
The Sevier County Sheriff's Department confirmed it had received a call from one of Smith's relatives saying he had been distraught and asking officers to check on his welfare. Smith was not home, however, when deputies came to his house shortly before the wreck happened.
Smith, 56, of 306 Grandview Drive in Kodak was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he remained for at least one day. Officials there said Monday they had no information to release on Smith.
The Knox County Sheriff's Department confirmed Smith had been arrested for driving under the influence on Sept. 1. The Tennessee Highway Patrol report from the fatal wreck shows authorities took a blood-alcohol test from Smith the day of the wreck, but the results were not available.
It is ordinary procedure to take a blood screen from drivers after a fatal accident.
The THP report states charges may be pending against Smith. It also is possible the case could be sent directly to the next session of the grand jury, which convenes next week.
District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn could not be reached for comment Monday.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 24 Sep 2006.
Letter to the Editor 9/23/06
September 24, 2006
Victim's family struggles with outcome with car accident
On Sept. 10 a wonderful person who was loved by many was taken from this world. Chucky Finchum was one of a kind, and we will all miss him. Chucky was the type of person that has left a little bit of himself with everyone he came in contact with.
For family and friends, things were already hard enough without someone writing a letter to the editor about the character of the man who was behind the wheel of the truck that day. Honestly, I think who Dr. Smith was before the accident does not mean anything to those of us related to and close to the Finchum family. The letter writer says he did not personally know Mr. Finchum. Well, a lot of other people did.
If it was you in the same position as Chucky's family, would you still feel the same way? In the blink of an eye you lose everything - your spouse, your home and a beloved family pet. Because another person makes a decision, could you be as forgiving and understanding? I would really hope not. I know that forgiveness is divine, but it is hard to do that knowing the circumstances behind what happened. Those of us that were there with Chucky's family on Sept. 10 know the truth about what happened.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 7 Nov 2006.
Inquiry continues into DUI wreck
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer
November 07, 2006
SEVIERVILLE - Authorities are still awaiting test results in their investigation into a wreck that took the life of a local man as he slept on his couch.
Family members said Chuck Finchum had just laid down on a couch in his home at 4100 Newport Highway on Sept. 10, when a truck driven by Dr. Edward W. Smith struck a tree in the yard and careened into the house, killing Finchum.
District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said his office is awaiting test results that will show whether Smith was under the influence of alcohol or of any drugs.
"It's still under investigation, and we'll look at all our options once we have the test results back," Dunn said.
A report by the Tennessee Highway Patrol said Smith told authorities he veered off the road and aimed his car at the tree in an attempt to kill himself. He suffered several injuries in the wreck, and is believed to still be under medical treatment.
Officials with the highway patrol said the case had been turned over to Dunn's office.
According to records at the Knox County Jail, Smith had been booked there for DUI Sept. 1, just a few days before the fatal wreck.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 7 Mar 2007.
Smith facing charge of first-degree murder
By: DEREK HODGES, Staff Writer
March 07, 2007
Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith, whose driving actions while alleging trying to commit suicide led to the death of a Sevier County man last September, now faces first-degree murder charges.
Smith made his second appearance in Sevier County Circuit Court on Monday, this time to hear he had been charged with first-degree murder. He previously had been charged with vehicular homicide.
Smith was arraigned on the new charge after being arrested for a second time on Monday. He was later released on $100,000 bond.
Smith, a Sevierville optometrist, is scheduled for a March 26 plea hearing, during which he will enter either a guilty or not guilty plea. His charges stem from a Sept. 10 accident that took the life of Chuck Finchum.
The new charge puts a burden on the state to prove that Smith planned to take a life in the incident, something District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said could be challenging. Still, Dunn said his office stands behind the stronger charge.
"The law in Tennessee says if you intentionally kill a person, that's first-degree murder," Dunn said. "Unfortunately I can't get into all the evidence we intend to use in the case, but everything we have indicates this was a premeditated act."
Dunn also said there has been no discussion of a plea agreement with Smith's attorney, Charles Sexton, although there is still time for that if the district attorney's office decides to offer one.
Smith's previous charge of vehicular homicide was handed down by a Sevier County Grand Jury on Sept. 26. He was released then on $50,000 bond.
According to authorities, Smith intended to take his own life when he aimed his car Sept. 10 at a tree in Finchum's yard on Old Newport Highway near the Blowing Cave Road intersection. The car grazed the tree and continued into Finchum's house, crashing into an enclosed porch and killing Finchum as he slept on a couch.
Smith was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment of the injuries he received in the incident. He was still in a wheelchair recovering from those injuries when he made his first appearance in court on Nov. 27.
One week prior to his alleged suicide attempt, Smith was charged in Knoxville with driving under the influence. At around the same time as Smith's DUI, Finchum and his family learned that the lung cancer for which he was receiving treatments was in remission.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 25 Jul 2007.
Smith attorney to seek insanity defense
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer
July 25, 2007
SEVIERVILLE - A local optometrist could rely on an insanity defense against charges of first-degree murder for killing a man in an alleged failed suicide attempt.
Dr. Edward Smith allegedly killed Chuck Finchum when he drove off Newport Highway and into Finchum's yard Sept. 10. His car struck a tree in Finchum's yard and then went through a wall of Finchum's home, striking him as he slept on a sofa.
Reports from the Tennessee Highway Patrol say Smith was distraught at the scene and said he meant to kill himself. A Sevier County Grand Jury indicted Smith this year on charges of first-degree murder.
In Sevier County Circuit Court Monday, Smith's defense attorney acknowledged he expects to offer an insanity defense against that charge, but that he is awaiting the results of an evaluation before he files it.
"I have given notice of our intent to rely upon defense 12.2, or insanity issues," Charles Sexton said. "The problem I have right now is my doctor still hasn't supplied me with a written report," he added. Sexton told Judge Richard Vance he would seek a subpoena demanding the written report if it doesn't arrive by the end of the month.
District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said he has already sent a letter to Smith asking for that notice so that the state can arrange its own evaluation
Sexton also asked the state for a bill or particulars explaining the facts they are relying upon to charge him with first-degree murder.
"It asks them to respond to some pretty specific things, particularly the facts ... which support the statutory element of that charge," Sexton said.
Vance said he would take those matters up during their next hearing date Aug. 2. He also moved the trial to Oct. 10, a day earlier than it was previously set. After talking with the attorneys he said the case will likely take more than one day at the least.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 12 Oct 2007.
Smith charges reduced
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer
October 12, 2007
SEVIERVILLE - Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith won't face a charge of first-degree murder for the wreck that took the life of Charles Finchum, but he still faces a second-degree murder charge in the incident.
Circuit Judge Richard Vance sustained defense attorney Charles Sexton's motion to dismiss the first-degree murder charges against Smith. He rejected District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn's arguments that Smith's intent to take his own life "transferred" to an intent to take another life.
"This court must apply the law to the facts that are presented," Vance ruled, "and must hold that the intent to kill himself does not supply the requisite intent to kill another as embodied in the first-degree murder statute, so the court must sustain the motion to dismiss the charge of first-degree murder."
Smith is charged with aiming his car at a tree in Finchum's yard on Sept. 10, 2006, in an attempt to end his own life. The car careened off the tree and struck the side of the house. Finchum's wife said he had just lay down to take a nap on a couch near the wall. He died at the scene.
"It's undisputed that on the night in question, Dr. Smith drove his vehicle into the tree intending to take his own life, but the vehicle instead went into the home of Mr. Finchum, killing him," Vance said.
Smith has since been treated for depression and alcohol dependency, as well as injuries he suffered in the accident.
Dunn brought up more than a half-dozen cases that showed a person who intended to take the life of another and wound up killing the wrong victim could still be charged with first-degree murder. None of those cases, however, involved a person attempting suicide.
"The difference ... is in those cases where was a criminal intent," Sexton said. "The act of suicide in Tennessee is not a criminal offense."
Smith's trial is now set for Jan. 22. It is expected to take several days.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 25 Jan 2008.
SMITH GUILTY; SENTENCING IN APRIL
By: DEREK HODGES Staff Writer
January 25, 2008
By DEREK HODGES
SEVIERVILLE - After an emotional day of testimony, it took a Sevier County Circuit Court jury only about an hour to convict Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith of vehicular homicide and reckless homicide, both felony charges.
The jury opted not to slap Smith with the second degree murder charge the state sought, instead settling on the two lesser charges along with a total of $15,000 in fines. A sentencing hearing will be held on April 21 to determine if Smith will serve any time behind bars, since the two counts carry possible jail time.
The conviction stems from a Sept. 10, 2006, incident in which Smith reportedly drove his Toyota Tacoma into a Newport Highway home, killing Chuck Finchum as he slept on a couch. Smith claims he was aiming at a tree in the Finchums' yard in an effort to take his own life.
Defense attorney Charles Sexton pinned much of his defense on the hope the jury would find Smith not guilty by reason of insanity. Several doctors testified Smith suffers from what they called, "major depression," which led him to a "single-minded focus" on killing himself. However, a witness for the state testified his depression did not "support the insanity defense."
Following the verdict, Sexton said he believes a conviction of second degree murder for his client, who has attempted to take his own life several times since the 2006 incident, would have been "a death sentence."
"I've got a client who's still very fragile," Sexton said. "He's still very much a suicide risk. I think the jury was very fair to both sides in this case."
Members of the Finchum family declined to comment on the verdict.
Thursday's testimony was marked by visible emotion as Smith; his wife, Terry; and Finchum's widow, Michelle, each took the stand.
Michelle Finchum was the first to face examination and recalled the events that took Chuck Finchum's life for the jury. She said both she and her husband laid down to rest that evening after a very tiring benefit they held for an ailing friend.
"I was laying on the bed and I heard this tremendous explosion that was like dynamite," Finchum said. "The first thing that came to my mind is the propane tanks had exploded - it was so bad. I jumped up and ran into the room and saw a pickup truck in the kitchen. I was trying to get to my husband because I knew he was under that truck."
Finchum claims she wasn't the only one who knew Chuck Finchum was dead at that point, saying she overheard Smith on the phone saying, "Oh my God, I think I just killed Chucky Finchum."
"I said, 'Yes, you sure did,'" Michelle Finchum recalled, her voice choked with emotion.
Smith, a Sevierville optometrist, treated Chuck Finchum at his practice. He says he doesn't remember making the call, though a tape of the conversation from emergency dispatchers was played in court Wednesday.
Immediately after Michelle Finchum's testimony, the prosecution rested its part of the case and the defense called Terry Smith to the stand.
Terry Smith recalled her husband's struggles with depression and a drinking problem, both of which concerned his family. She said she was furious to learn during a trip to Johnson City Sept. 9-10, 2006, that her husband was arrested on a drunk driving charge in Knoxville.
"His children and I pleaded with him to stop the drinking," she said. "I guess alcohol was his way of escaping. (When he told me) I became extremely upset. I told him, 'You're out of control. Now look what you've done; you've embarrassed yourself, you've embarrassed your family and now you have to face the consequences."
Many of those sentiments were echoed in a suicide note Edward Smith wrote just shortly after the couple returned from Johnson City on Sunday evening. As Terry Smith left the house "to clear her mind," Edward Smith sat down to pen the words he read in court Thursday.
"I'm sorry I've let you down," he wrote. "Please forgive me, but life isn't worth living with the shame I've caused myself."
The recitation of the letter caused Smith and his family to break down into sobbing. He further testified he called his sister to tell her and the rest of his family good bye as he left to find, "something solid" to run his truck into and take his life that evening.
Smith testified he drove east on Interstate 40 as he looked for something to hit. Finding nothing satisfactory there, he left the interstate and headed toward his home on Highway 411. As he did so, he testified he passed the Finchum home and noticed a large tree in the yard there.
After deciding he had found his target, he says he stopped at a wide spot in the road to turn around and attempted to disable the airbag.
"I started back down the road and, when I was in line with the tree, I started going as fast as I can and that's all I remember until I woke up in the house," Smith said.
When he came to, Smith says he heard Michelle Finchum yelling, "Where is he? Where is he?" Despite that recollection, Smith testified he doesn't remember much else about the day.
District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn and Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Ball hammered at Smith's claim his memory is devoid of information about that day. He pointed out Smith had a choice of trees and other solid objects he could have run his car into, but he chose the tree near the Finchum home.
"There were several places along this highway he could have done this," Ball said in his closing statements to the jury. "Every step of the way, he knew what he was doing."
Sexton countered, saying Smith did not mean to harm anyone else that day, but meant only to take his own life.
"That was never his intention; that was never his plan," Sexton said. "The only thing he knew was in just a moment his life would be over."
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 21 Apr 2008.
Dr. Smith gets one year in prison
SEVIERVILLE - Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith will spend a year in jail for taking the life of a New Center man in a botched attempt at suicide.
Smith killed Chuck Finchum Sept. 10, 2006, when his car careened off a tree he aimed at and smashed through a wall of Finchum's house, running over a couch where he was dozing.
A Sevier County jury convicted Smith of vehicular homicide earlier this year, and Monday Judge Richard Vance sentenced him to a year of incarceration in the county jail or, if possible, a state facility that can offer him more aid in dealing with depression and alcoholism. Smith will spend the following two years on probation under the supervision of community corrections officers. Vance also ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service, in addition to paying a $10,000 fine imposed by the jury.
For details see the Tuesday edition of The Mountain Press
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 22 Apr 2008.
BREAKING NEWS: Dr. Smith critical after apparent suicide attempt
SEVIERVILLE - Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith was in critical condition Tuesday after a failed suicide attempt, just a day after he was sentenced to a year's incarceration and two years of community corrections for killing a New Center man in a previous attempt to take his own life.
Smith was convicted of vehicular homicide earlier this year for taking the life of Chucky Finchum in an incident that happened Sept. 10, 2006. He aimed his car at a tree in Finchum's yard off Newport Highway in what his defense attorney admitted was an attempt at suicide, but the truck ricocheted from the tree and rammed into Finchum's house. Finchum was killed while sleeping on a couch.
Authorities confirmed Tuesday that Smith had attempted to commit suicide and was airlifted to The University of Tennessee Medical Center. He was reportedly placed on a ventilator; no other details of his condition were available Tuesday afternoon.
Vance had ordered Smith to report to jail next month to begin his sentence.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 26 Apr 2008.
Judge followed law in Smith sentencing
Circuit Judge Richard Vance was limited by the law in what sort of sentence he could give to Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith in a case of vehicular homicide.
The Legislature imposed strict sentencing guidelines when it wrote the Criminal Sentencing Reform Act of 1989, and those guidelines were designed to leave judges with little leeway.
"The court is not free to sentence arbitrarily, but must follow a very complex and very specific set of rules and guidelines in sentencing as it applies in any case based upon the circumstances of that particular case," Vance said during Monday's sentencing hearing.
"The court realizes nothing this court could do today ... would satisfy anybody or everybody in this courtroom, but the court has to follow the law," he added later.
Vance gave Smith a three-year sentence, including jail time for one year. He also stripped Smith's driver license for 10 years - the maximum allowed. A jury had already imposed a $10,000 fine, which is the most it could do after finding him guilty of vehicular homicide.
Smith remains in critical condition at The University of Tennessee Medical Center after reportedly trying to commit suicide again Tuesday, this time by ingesting poison. He had been out on bond and was given a few more weeks of freedom before beginning his sentence.
The jury could have convicted Smith of a more serious charge during the trial earlier this year. A grand jury had indicted Smith on first-degree murder. Vance later lowered the charge to second-degree murder, saying Smith's intent to kill himself in the incident didn't "transfer" to his victim, Chuck Finchum.
Finchum died in a failed suicide attempt Sept. 10, 2006. Smith aimed his car at a tree in Finchum's yard, but the car smashed through a wall of the house, running over Finchum as he slept on his couch.
With the jury's decision to convict Smith of the lesser charge of vehicular homicide, the judge could only impose a sentence of three to six years - and unless he found a reason under state law, the judge was expected to go with the minimum sentence.
"The minimum sentence within the range of punishment is the sentence that should be imposed, because the general assembly set the minimum length of sentence for each felony class to reflect the relative seriousness of each criminal offense in the felony classifications," according to state law.
Felons who have long criminal histories or show "a clear disregard for the laws and morals of society ... shall be given priority for sentencing involving incarceration."
Smith didn't meet those parameters and was convicted of a Class C felony. In those cases, the law says a defendant "should be considered as a favorable candidate for alternative sentencing options."
Smith is considered a Range I offender, meaning he has no prior convictions. He is still awaiting trial on a DUI charge after his arrest about a week before the incident with Finchum.
The judge also reviewed factors involved in Smith's case and weighed those in making his decision.
He determined that Smith acted without hesitation in committing an offense where the risk to others was high, noting testimony at the trial showed Smith drove up and down Newport Highway planning to commit suicide in his car. Vance ruled that was balanced by mitigating factors including that it is unlikely Smith would repeat the offense.
Vance rejected bids by the defense to consider Smith as a mitigated offender, which would have lowered his sentence; and for a deferred sentence, which would have allowed Smith to attempt to remove the charge from his record after completing the sentence.
The reform act was written in response to complaints about sentencing discrepancies over similar cases; critics said some judges were giving probation while a judge in another district would sentence the defendant to the maximum jail time.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 11 May 2008.
Smith begins jail sentence
By: DEREK HODGES Staff Writer
May 11, 2008
SEVIERVILLE - Dr. Edward Wilcox Smith has surrendered to officials to begin serving his sentence for vehicular homicide.
Sheriff Ron Seals said Friday that Smith agreed to his arrest without incident several weeks before he was required to begin the one-year term behind bars. Smith is currently being held at the Sevier County Jail, but will be transported to a state penitentiary in the coming days.
Until that time, Seals said jail officials are taking "special precautions to ensure (Smith's) security." Smith is serving his time locally in a cell by himself. His Sheriff's Department booking report confirms he has been placed on suicide watch.
Smith was convicted earlier this year of killing Chuck Finchum on Sept. 10, 2006, when a botched suicide attempt landed Smith's truck inside Finchum's home. During testimony in that trial, it was revealed Smith attempted suicide several times between his arrest and his trial.
Another suicide attempt came the day after he was sentenced, when Smith was transported via helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center after he apparently ingested a large amount of prescription drugs and some liquid pesticide. After several days on a ventilator in critical condition, Smith's health improved and he was released from the hospital.
He is now healthy enough to serve his time in jail, Seals said.
Judge Richard Vance sentenced Smith April 21 to serve one year behind bars, preferably in a state facility that can offer him aid in dealing with depression and alcoholism, two issues testimony shows he has struggled with. At the time, Smith was given up to a month to get his affairs in order before reporting to the jail to serve the sentence.
Smith, who turned himself in to authorities on Thursday, will spend a year in jail and then two years on probation under the supervision of community corrections officers. State law allowed only a maximum three-year sentence for vehicular homicide for Smith.
Vance also ordered to Smith to complete 200 hours of community service, in addition to paying a $10,000 find imposed by the jury that found him guilty of the crime.