ST. GEORGE – A Hurricane man was sentenced Thursday to serve a year in jail for his part in an accident that resulted in the death of a family acquaintance last year.
Randahl Keith Hill, 25, appeared in 5th District Court with attorney Ryan Stout before Judge Eric Ludlow Thursday morning. Hill pleaded guilty in October to a third degree felony and two misdemeanors related to the death of Bruce Smale, 52, of Arkansas.
Smale, who has been described as Hill’s mother’s boyfriend, was killed during the early morning of May 19, 2015, following an attempt to stop Hill from driving while intoxicated.
Both men had been consuming alcohol throughout the night, according to court documents. Prior to 5 a.m., Smale had gotten on the hood of Hill’s car and was subsequently thrown off and hit the back of his head against the pavement of the road in front of Hill’s mother’s home in Hurricane.
Medical examination determined trauma caused by the impact against the asphalt to be the cause of Smale’s death.
A pre-sentencing investigation report was issued by Adult Probation and Parole to the court and recommended Hill serve 210 days in jail for the incident, noting an overall lack of criminal history and other factors.
However, Ludlow went with the prior recommendation of the prosecution that Hill serve a year at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility with the possibility of being released after six months provided he is a model inmate during that time. Credit was given for 15 days previously served at the jail.
Deputy Washington County Attorney Zachary Weiland said Smale’s family was agreeable to the year in jail and also noted Hill’s lack of criminal history and remorse following the fatal incident.
“We believe it was a tragic accident that could have been avoided,” Weiland said, “and that’s why we felt jail was necessary.”
Hill was also sentenced to serve 36 months probation and pay over $3,600 restitution related to Smale’s funeral costs and travel expenses related to Smale’s family for judicial procedures. He was also ordered to undergo a mental evaluation.
Prior to sentencing, Stout told the court that Hill had enrolled in, and completed, an adult Prime for Life class and had stopped drinking. Ludlow ordered Hill to follow through with whatever drug or alcohol treatment that class recommended for him.
Members of Hill’s family were present in the courtroom and pointed out by Stout for the court. However, members of Smale’s family were unable to attend due to a family emergency, Stout said. He said he wished they had been able to make it so they could see how remorseful his client is.
“I wish his family was here,” Hill said when allowed to address the court, becoming emotional as he spoke. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. Every day it hurts me immensely … I want to apologize to my mom.”
Stout said Smale’s family may have the impression that Hill is cold and un-remorseful due to some difficultly he has in social interactions. This is due to his having Asperger Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder. Hill was diagnosed with the Asperger Syndrome about two years ago, Stout said.
How Hill deal’s with the disorder played a part in what happened the morning of Smale’s death, Stout said.
Hill was meeting Smale for the first time that night, he even began to like the man as they had a few beers together, Stout said. There was no malice there at all, he said.
However, when the topic of conversation turned to a friend of Hill’s who had recently committed suicide, Hill decided to leave and went to his car. Withdrawing from a potential incident where an outburst could result rather than lingering around is a way Hill has learned to cope with Asperger Syndrome, Stout said.
It was good that Hill was getting out of the situation, Stout said, but not good that he got into his car to do so while drunk.
According to court documents, Hill told the Hurricane Police that he had consumed at least 12 cans of beer before getting into his car.
One of Hill’s family members asked Smale to stop him from driving while intoxicated. Smale, who was also intoxicated, according to court records, did so and somehow ended up on the hood of Hill’s car while trying to stop him.
Raquel Hill, Randahl Hill’s mother, later contacted St. George News and said no one had Smale to stop her son from driving.
“My last words to Bruce were that ‘we needed to get him (Randahl) off the street and I was going to call the police,'” Raquel Hill said in an email.
At that point in time, due to it being very early in the morning and no one being on the street, and that Randahl was just revving the engine and not driving, it didn’t appear to be a 911 call just yet. Bruce was a man of very high honor. While I was in the house looking for the dispatch number and my portable phone that would go outside so that I could report the situation as I saw it (I didn’t have a working cell phone at that time); Bruce may have taken that word ‘we’ personally and tried to fix the situation himself, using methods I know he wouldn’t have used had he been sober.
During an interview with police, Hill said he was doing a “burn out” in his Mustang when Smale fell off the hood. He said he left the scene and came back a short time later, returning to find his mother standing over Smale’s body.
Police and other responders were alerted to the incident around 5 a.m. in the area of 300 N. 35 West in Hurricane where they found Smale lying in the middle of the road. He was confirmed dead at the scene.
Charges Hill pleaded guilty to include a third-degree felony for being involved in an accident that resulted in a death, and two class B misdemeanors for reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Hill was initially charged with a second-degree felony vehicle homicide involving criminal negligence related to a DUI. However, the prosecution dropped the charge as additional information came to light, Weiland said.
Ed. Note: Raquel Hill’s account of the incident was added Jan. 15, 2015.
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