The man accused of blowing through a stoplight and killing two people near an Interstate 64 ramp last year lost his criminal traffic case Tuesday evening.
The 53-year-old Culpeper resident, John Saville Chadduck, was convicted in Albemarle General District Court of reckless driving and given a three-month jail term.
"He just plowed right through," said Robert Downer, a retired judge hearing the case. "It was a reckless decision."
The early evening incident on May 19, 2022, killed 34-year-old Bryan Daniel Warrick and his 5-year-old son Milo. Their deaths devastated their Lake Monticello-based family, according to the victim impact statement read aloud by grieving widow and mother Jakki Warrick.
"My oldest son and I lost half our family — I repeat half our family," Warrick told the court. "We feel obliterated by grief."
The wreck, she said, occurred the night before she and her husband, a graphic designer for locally based app developer WillowTree, were to celebrate both their wedding anniversary and their younger son’s kindergarten graduation.
"Bryan and Milo were young and had their whole life ahead of them," she said. "The pain will never go away."
The incident occurred at an intersection that had been revamped seven months earlier, a $2 million project to end the so-called weave of two ramps in short succession on I-64 near mile marker 118.
Two motorists testified about what happened after they waited in the pair of left turn lanes around 5:30 p.m. Having traveled southbound on U.S. Route 29, they and the Warrick vehicle were stopped at red lights waiting to cross the northbound lanes of 29 to enter I-64’s eastbound on-ramp. They said the overhead arrows turned green.
"I started moving my vehicle forward," testified Guy S. Webster. "This white box truck just kept on coming. I said to myself, ‘He’s not going to stop.’"
Webster said he was just 15 feet away with his windows open when he saw the northbound box truck strike the Warricks’ sedan.
"There was no braking," said Webster. "There was no horn."
On cross-examination, Webster was asked about how Warrick was driving.
"As he started to roll forward, I started to roll forward," said Webster. "It was normal; it wasn’t jack rabbit or anything."
Chadduck’s attorney, West Point-based Brenton Bohannon, noted that at the time of the crash the intersection’s traffic signals never provided any time when the lights in all directions were red, a routine safety buffer which was subsequently applied there after the crash.
"There’s no all-red condition," said Bohannon.
Bohannon also pointed to tables of vehicle weights and stopping distances introduced into evidence and noted that his client, by his own admission to an investigating officer, was likely traveling 58-60 mph when he saw the light turn yellow.
"This is a heavy box truck," said Bohannon, asserting that hitting the brakes might have flipped the truck.
After an Albemarle County police officer, Kate Kane, testified that a post-crash examination of the traffic signal showed 6.5 seconds of yellow light before turning red, Bohannan said his client needed more time. He said that Chadduck needed 1.5 seconds of reaction time plus 5.2 seconds of braking time for a total of 6.7 seconds to safely stop the truck.
"Our argument is he couldn’t have stopped," said Bohannon. "He just didn’t have enough time."
Prosecutor Ray Szwabowski pushed back.
"You need some sort of new math to make that work," said Szwabowski. "We know that he was behind that stop bar and that he ran that red light."
Albemarle County police officer David Huffman, who filed the reckless driving charge five months after the crash, testified that he found the tires and brakes of the box truck, a Ford F-750, in good condition.
Another officer, Jacob Chisom, testified to being the first officer on the scene and to finding Chadduck bleeding in the cab of the box truck — and pinning blame on the Warricks.
"He said, ‘The light was yellow, and I think they were running the red light,’" Chisholm testified.
Noting the newness of the interchange, the defense attorney, Bohannon, also noted that a third vehicle, a parked pickup truck was damaged after the initial impact, belonged to CES Consulting, a contractor with a history of assisting the Virginia Department of Transportation.
"They were in the area," said Bohannon, "and we know what they do."
He raised questions with two of the testifying officers suggesting that CES technicians were there to repair faulty traffic lights. Neither officer agreed with that assessment.
"There could be something going on with this light," Bohannon argued.
The defense lawyer was more successful when pointing out that no witness testified to seeing the box truck violate a red light before colliding with the Warrick vehicle.
"It’s absolutely possible that both of them had the right of way and that neither of them were in the wrong," Bohannon argued.
The prosecutor called that argument a "red herring," because officer Kane testified to examining the traffic signals that evening and to finding them working properly. Chadduck’s allegation that her late husband ran a red light particularly incensed Jakki Warrick.
"This was not an accident," Warrick told the court. "We view defendant Chadduck as a murderer."
While betraying no emotion during the rest of the widow’s impact statement, Chadduck gently shook his head at that assertion. He did not testify.
According to two officers who told the court about speaking with Chadduck in the cab of the wrecked box truck, Chadduck was severely injured by the collision. He made his way to the defendant’s table Tuesday walking slowly with the assistance of a cane.
"Looking back on it, he didn’t make the right decision," Bohannon conceded. "The fact that two people lost their lives doesn’t necessarily make this reckless."
Warrick brought five photographs to the witness stand, including smiling images of her late husband and the son who she said was Bryan Warrick’s "Mini-Me." As she shoved an image of the mangled automobile toward the defendant, she said the first responders told her they spent 20 minutes probing what remained of her husband’s blue Lexus before they found the body of her little boy.
"To say that I’m shattered and heartbroken is an understatement," said Warrick. "Our hearts and souls have been obliterated by the death of Bryan and Milo, and we are not OK."
Before the judge pronounced the sentence, Warrick urged the maximum, which was a year behind bars. The prosecutor seconded that.
"I hereby request that the defendant be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Warrick said. "We hope that will protect others."
Sitting through all of this testimony were the parents of Warrick and of her late husband, who live in Colorado, as well as her teenage son Landon.
"There is nothing that I could do in any way, shape or form that could minimize the effect on the family," said the judge.
Downer set the penalty at 12 months in jail with nine months suspended, and he suspended Chadduck’s driver’s license for six months. An additional charge of driving without securing his seat belt brought a $25 fine.
Chadduck was granted a delay on reporting to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail while he considers an appeal.
Neither side would comment to The Daily Progress on the verdict.