Man sentenced to 5 1/2 years for DWI death

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A 33-year-old Fairbanks man has been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for manslaughter in the drunk-driving death of a 17-year-old girl last year.

Kirk Jackson had a blood-alcohol level of .29 -- nearly three times the legal limit at the time -- when he was admitted to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital after crashing his truck head-on into a car driven by Heather Dowdy, a Lathrop High School senior. Alaska State Troopers said icy road conditions also contributed to the crash.

Dowdy, 17, suffered multiple injuries in the crash Sept. 30, 2000. She died during surgery later the same day.

At Jackson's sentencing hearing Thursday, Dowdy's friends and family filled the courtroom with sobbing and emotional testimonials to a life cut short.

When it was over, Superior Court Judge Charles Pengilly sentenced Jackson to a total of 5 1/2 years in prison with an additional 15 1/2 years suspended, as well as 10 years on probation. As part of the probation, Jackson's driving privileges will be suspended for five years following his release.

Jackson was charged with manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, and in June agreed to plead no contest to both charges. He had previously been convicted of driving while intoxicated after a 1988 incident in which troopers pulled him over for weaving across the center line of the Richardson Highway.

At Thursday's hearing, Dowdy's older sister, Rochelle Dowdy, said the crash was not a work of fate but a result of Jackson's decision to drink and drive.

''Kirk chose to drink a lot of alcohol,'' she said. ''This is a result of his choices, this was not an accident.''

Jackson offered a brief apology, turning to face the victim's friends and family. ''There's nothing I can say that'll make you feel any better, I know that,'' he said. ''I hurt an awful lot of people and caused an awful lot of pain.

''I wish I could trade places with her, I really do.''

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