- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 26 Sep 2006.
Brandon D. Franklin
December 17, 1984 - September 26, 2006
Birthplace: Sevier County, Tennessee
Resided In: Kodak, Tennessee
Visitation: September 29, 2006
Service: September 29, 2006
Cemetery: Providence Cemetery
Brandon Franklin, age 21 of Kodak, passed away Tuesday, September 26, 2006, along with his wife, Jenilyn Addis Franklin.
Son: Caleb Franklin
Parents: Dale and Sharon Franklin
Grandparents: Lela Patterson, Herbert Franklin
Sister: Brittany Franklin
Brothers: Tim and Steven Franklin
Several aunts, uncles, and cousins
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to benefit the family.
Funeral service 7 PM Friday in the East Chapel of Atchley Funeral Home with Rev. George McLaughlin officiating. Interment 2 PM Saturday in Providence Cemetery. The family will receive friends 5-7 PM Friday at Atchley Funeral Home, Sevierville. (www.atchleyfuneralhome.com)
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 29 Sep 2006.
Driver had history DUI offenses
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer
September 29, 2006
Jeff Farrell/The Mountain Press
Larry Bruce Williamson, pictured, was charged Tuesday night with two counts of vehicular homicide after his truck smashed into a motorcycle on Newport Highway.
SEVIERVILLE - A man with a long history of driving infractions now faces two counts of vehicular homicide after allegedly swerving his vehicle into the path of a motorcycle on Newport Highway Tuesday night, killing the newlywed couple riding on the bike.
Larry Bruce Williamson, 43, of 1134 Deer Trail Way in Seymour, was driving toward Newport when officers say his vehicle crossed the center line and struck a motorcycle driven by Brandon Franklin, 21, of 3311 Riverpoint Circle in Kodak. Witnesses said the impact sent the motorcycle high into the air and ejected both passengers.
Records at Sevier County General Sessions Court show Williamson pleaded guilty last year to two separate counts of DUI for offenses that happened a little more than a month apart. He also pleaded guilty to charges of violation of probation and was convicted of domestic assault.
He is still awaiting trial on charges of assault and unlawful possession of a firearm stemming from an incident in which he allegedly shot a hole in his son's car during an argument over a car motor.
Franklin died as a result of injuries sustained at the wreck Tuesday night. His wife, Jennilyn Franklin, 18, was airlifted to The University of Tennessee Medical Center, but died in surgery Tuesday night, according to the Sevier County Sheriff's Department.
The two of them had reportedly been married for just a few months; court records show they obtained a marriage license in July.
The complaint against Williamson, filed by trooper Phi Little, said Williamson "had slurred speech and glazed eyes" after the wreck.
"He told me had taken his medicine earlier that day," Little wrote in the report.
Williamson was not injured. His blood will be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs; the test is required of drivers in all fatal wrecks.
He was being held at the Sevier County Jail in lieu of $505,000 bond.
He was also charged as a habitual motor vehicle offender.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 26 Jan 2007.
Williamson faces tougher charges
After looking at the driving record of Larry Bruce Williamson, the grand jury decided to return a presentment for more serious charges than he already faced.
Williamson will now face charges of aggravated vehicular homicide in the deaths of Brandon and Jennilyn Franklin. Police say Williamson's truck crossed in front of the newlywed couple's motorcycle on Newport Highway, striking it and sending it high into the air.
Williamson has a history of drunken driving charges in Sevier County and at least one in another county. He had been designated as a habitual motor vehicle offender, meaning he was not supposed to be driving when he wrecked.
"If you have more than two DUI's, you can be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide," said assistant district attorney general Steve Hawkins, who is prosecuting the case.
Williamson had been charged with vehicular homicide in connection with the wreck. He also faces charges for violating his status as a habitual motor vehicle offender.
Witnesses said that Williamson was unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech after the wreck. Authorities have said that his blood test showed he hadn't consumed alcohol; they are still awaiting the results of drug tests.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 12 Apr 2007.
Judge Ogle: Williamson guilty plea part of homicide case
By: JEFF FARRELL, Staff Writer
April 12, 2007
SEVIERVILLE - Larry Bruce Williamson got what one judge called a favorable plea agreement a few years ago. This time Judge Rex Henry Ogle wouldn't let him get out of that agreement now that his guilty plea will be held against him in a vehicular homicide case.
Williamson is charged with killing Brandon and Jennilyn Franklin last year when he swerved in front of the newlywed couple while they rode their motorcycle on Newport Highway. Defense attorney Joe Baker tried Tuesday to convince Judge Rex Henry Ogle his client hadn't understood his rights when he entered a guilty plea to previous charges of driving under the influence.
Williamson, for his part, said he couldn't remember ever being informed of his rights, including the right to a jury trial, throughout those proceedings. The judge didn't believe him.
"That's the most incredulous testimony I've ever heard," Ogle said as he dismissed all of Baker's motions for post conviction relief.
A Sevier County grand jury indicted him for aggravated vehicular homicide based on his prior convictions; if the prior charges were overturned prosecutors would have had to re-file the charges from the fatal wreck as vehicular homicide, meaning he would face a lower sentence if convicted.
Ogle ultimately agreed with prosecutor Steve Hawkins, who noted Williamson never complained about the charges until he found out how they could impact the vehicular homicide charges against him.
"He was happy go lucky until the vehicular homicide charges happened," Hawkins said.
The hearing took most of the afternoon, as Williamson took the stand along with Judge Jeff Rader, who accepted the plea agreement, and attorney Kenneth Gilleland, who represented him when he faced the charges.
The transcript of the plea agreement doesn't record all the conversations from Williamson's case; the recording was stopped during a conference with the judge and starts as Williamson is answering a question.
Rader said, however, that he was sure he had asked Williamson whether he understood the rights he would give up as he entered a guilty plea.
Several times, he said he believed the agreement was favorable for Williamson. "He was getting a good deal," Rader said at one point.
Ogle was also concerned about an affidavit Gilleland signed for Baker, saying that Williamson was "under the influence" when he accepted the plea agreement.
On the stand, Gilleland said that Williamson took prescription pills throughout their contact with each other. The DUI charges stem from Williamson's problems with prescription painkillers, not alcohol, he noted.
On the date of the plea agreement, he said Williamson was "under the influence" of the drugs but not "impaired" to the point he wouldn't understand what he was doing.
"It's troubling," Ogle said of the affidavit. "It's very troubling."
He found, however, that Gilleland ultimately decided his client was fit to enter the plea agreement. He also found that Gilleland and Rader reviewed Williamson's rights with him before he entered the guilty plea.
- [S27] The Daily Times, http://www.thedailytimes.com/, (Blount County, Tennessee), 30 Oct 2007.
Man gets 20 years for 2006 crash that killed newlyweds
SEVIERVILLE — A Sevier County man pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of vehicular homicide in a 2006 crash that killed a newlywed couple on a motorcycle and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Larry Bruce Williamson, 44, of Seymour was sentenced as part of a plea deal accepted by Sevier County Criminal Court Judge Rex Henry Ogle.
He will have to serve at least six years before he is eligible for parole.
Williamson, who faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted, pleaded to two counts of aggravated homicide by intoxication and driving as a habitual offender.
Brandon Franklin, 21, and his 18-year-old wife, Jenilyn Addis Franklin, were killed in the Sept. 26, 2006, crash when Williamson’s pickup truck crossed the centerline on U.S. Highway 411 and slammed head-on into their motorcycle. The Franklins had been married less than two months. Witness Cindy Hanna testifed at a preliminary hearing that Williamson was so intoxicated he didn’t know after the crash that he had caused it.
“He staggered around,” Hanna said. “He walked past me and asked me, ‘Do you think this is my fault, ma’am?’ I said, ’I think so.’”
Williamson had three previous convictions for driving under the influence and a history of narcotics use, according to court records.
Advocates for tougher DUI laws say Williamson’s case showed weaknesses in Tennessee’s enforcement system.
- [S4] Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee), 30 Oct 2007.
Slipping through the holes
Sevier man pleads guilty to vehicular homicide, sentenced to 20 years
By Matt Lakin (Contact)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
SEVIERVILLE - All the laws in the state couldn't keep Larry Bruce Williamson off the road.
They couldn't keep him from killing two newlyweds.
They might not keep him in prison for long.
Williamson, 44, of Seymour pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving as a habitual offender. The plea, part of an agreement with Sevier County prosecutors, earned Williamson a sentence of 20 years in prison for the crash that killed Brandon and Jenilyn Franklin on Sept. 26, 2006.
He could come up for parole in six years.
For the couple's families, a lifetime in prison wouldn't balance out the loss.
"I guess it's about as over as it's ever going to be," said Darleen Addis, Jenilyn Franklin's mother. "The pain will never be over, but going through a trial would have killed us."
The plea marked the end of a case held up as an example of the holes in Tennessee's laws against driving under the influence. Even the judge said he wished for a better way.
Brandon Franklin, 21, and his 18-year-old bride had been married about seven weeks when Williamson, driving his son's Ford F-150 pickup, met them on U.S. Highway 411 near Hattie Branch Road. The pickup crossed the center line and smashed head-on into their motorcycle, a 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan.
"My daughter smiled and gave me the thumbs-up leaving the driveway," Addis said. "The next time I saw her, she was dead on an icy, cold table."
Williamson climbed behind the wheel that day with no license and three convictions on his record for driving under the influence of narcotics. He'd been declared a habitual traffic offender about three months earlier and still hadn't finished his probation for the first DUI conviction.
Blood tests showed levels of oxycodone, a prescription painkiller, in his system. Witnesses to the crash said he didn't even know what had happened when he stepped out of the truck.
Williamson offered the families an apology Monday as he faced the judge.
"As I stand here today, I wish I could give my life if it would bring those kids back to their parents," he said. "As a father, I can only imagine what they're going through. I'm so sorry. I can only pray that someday they'll be able to forgive me."
The words didn't win him any sympathy.
"If I had my way about it, he'd be hanging out there in front of the courthouse," said Brandon Franklin's father, Dale. "These kids weren't statistics. They were living, breathing human beings who got the short end of the stick because of one man's stupidity."
Circuit Judge Rex Henry Ogle said he wished he could make the prison time longer. State law requires aggravated vehicular homicide offenders to serve just 30 percent of a sentence to become eligible for parole.
"There is no rhyme or reason to this, and I wish there was something our legal system could do to bring the families some closure," the judge said. "We can sit here and talk about the law and its majesty, but that changes nothing for these families.
"This crime is a Class A felony, just like second-degree murder. Yet a defendant convicted of second-degree murder must serve the sentence at 100 percent. In the court's opinion, this should be no different. That will hopefully change somewhere down the line."
The Governor's DUI Task Force and prosecutors around the state have asked the Legislature to revise the law so that sentencing for vehicular homicides can be handled more like other violent crimes.
Prosecutors said they agreed to the plea deal to spare the families from the pain of a trial and appeals.
The deal saved Williamson a sentence that prosecutors said could have gone as high as 30 years. But it also saved prosecutors an uphill courtroom battle over how authorities handled the blood sample that proved Williamson's intoxication.
State law requires officers to draw blood samples from a DUI suspect within two hours of arrest. Sevier County deputies, already headed to the scene after a driver called 911 to complain about Williamson weaving all over the road, arrived just after the wreck and put him in the back of a patrol car "for his own safety" around 4:45 p.m.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Phil Little handled the investigation. He'd been on patrol in neighboring Blount County and didn't arrive until more than an hour later. Another hour passed before he took Williamson to a hospital for a blood sample.
"Blood was drawn at about 7:45 p.m., at least three hours after this accident," said Steve Hawkins, chief assistant district attorney general. "I understand the trooper had other things he had to do, but there's a question as to whether this blood would have been allowed to come in as evidence."
Officials said that's another law that needs changing. Officers busy working a wreck, interviewing witnesses and questioning suspects sometimes can't get the blood samples drawn before time runs out.
"In a rural area, two hours isn't always sufficient time," said Jimmy Dunn, 4th Judicial District attorney general and a former state trooper. "Four hours would be more realistic."
Once he got the blood sample, Little stored it in the trunk of his cruiser. It stayed there for the next 15 days before being sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's crime lab for testing.
"I cannot believe that," the judge said. "As important as this case was for the prosecution and with two lives taken, that was totally inappropriate - and those are the kindest words I can say."
THP officials said they couldn't explain the delays. Normal procedure calls for troopers to hand deliver the blood samples to the crime lab as soon as possible, said Lt. Clinton Valentine, who oversees troopers in Sevier, Blount and Monroe counties.
"It should have been taken the next day," Valentine said. "We have policies and procedures to follow, and you can rest assured we will be looking into this."
Monday's hearing ended with Williamson returning to jail and the couple's families heading home to the holes left in their lives.
Jenilyn Franklin's mother, Darleen Addis, plans to devote the rest of her life to working for tougher DUI laws - here and elsewhere.
"I'm willing to work with the state, go to Nashville or do whatever I have to do," she said. "I'm going to work hard. I know my daughter and my son-in-law would want us to go on with our lives. But no one should have to go through this."
Matt Lakin may be reached at 865-342-6306.
- [S4] Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee), 15 Oct 2006.
All that remains