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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Family admonishes Coe in court

  • John David Coe, Jr., 36, of Prescott, sat at the defense table in a Hempstead County courtroom Tuesday morning staring mournfully, unmoving, as each witness who proffered victim impact statements against him from the family of Kathryn Nevil, 38, of Franklin, Tenn., poured out their hearts at the loss created by Coe's drunken driving.
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  • John David Coe, Jr., 36, of Prescott, sat at the defense table in a Hempstead County courtroom Tuesday morning staring mournfully, unmoving, as each witness who proffered victim impact statements against him from the family of Kathryn Nevil, 38, of Franklin, Tenn., poured out their hearts at the loss created by Coe's drunken driving. Coe was found guilty Tuesday by Eighth Judicial District-North Circuit Judge Randy Wright and assessed maximum sentences of 40 years and 15 years incarceration on six felony charges in a pleading agreement to which he pled guilty in the Nov. 16, 2012, drunk driving death of Nevil and the injury of her two children. Wright assessed sentences of 40 years on one count of negligent homicide; 40 years on one count of first degree battery; 15 years each on two counts of aggravated assault; 15 years each on two counts of aggravated assault on family or household members; one year in county jail on a single count of possession of a controlled substance (marijuana); and one year in county jail on a single count of possession of drug paraphernalia. All of the felony sentences will be served concurrently in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, requiring Coe to serve at least 10 years imprisonment prior to any consideration of parole because of the maximum sentencing requirement under the controlling case of first degree battery, according to Eighth Judicial District-North Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen. The sentencing terms and length of prison service were part of an agreed pleading under an enhancement based upon four or more felony convictions, according to the agreement. The pleading was accepted by Wright under an agreement authorized by Steve Nevil, of Franklin, Tenn., husband of Kathryn Nevil, and in behalf of their children, Will Nevil and Lauren Nevil, both whom were injured in the crash. Coe will also pay $100,000 into a trust fund for the special needs of Lauren Nevil as she recovers from crippling injuries and brain damage as a result of the accident. Under the terms of the agreement, that sum will not be affected by any civil proceedings which may be brought in her behalf or that of the family. Steve Nevil shed tears multiple times as he read from the obituary of his wife, and recounted her vitality of life as a young woman, a wife and a mother. “It is evident that her desire to unselfishly share her heart, soul and fun character made a lasting impact on others by the amount of true great friends she made throughout her life,” Steve Nevil said. “...She was a fantastic mother, an exceptional wife and helped lead her family through Biblical principles.” Nevil quoted the Biblical passage in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Nevil paused before he continued to read. “Mr. Coe, I haven't forgiven you yet,” he said. “I pray for my heart to heal and give me the ability to forgive you, but I haven't been able to succumb to forgiveness yet. Maybe, today will be my first step towards that?” He recounted the sense of loss within his entire family, and its impact upon his children; emphasizing the void created in the life of his 13-year old daughter. “She will never ever be the same person and different her entire life because of your selfish and preventable choice you made on Nov. 16, 2012,” Nevil said. “Lauren has had countless surgeries, multiple blood and plasma transfusions, physically transformed from her injuries, struggles with school work and socially different.” Nevil challenged Coe to accept a photograph of his family and post it on the wall of his prison cell for the first year of his incarceration. “Each and every day for one full year you can look at our lives that you personally and permanently impacted forever by your selfish and preventable action that day,” he said. “I hope your are mature enough to accept this challenge.” As Coe later completed a short statement of his own, in which he expressed his sorrow for his actions and begged forgiveness, he stepped from the witness stand and accepted the photograph from McQueen. Statements were also read by Mrs. Nevil's mother, Carolyn Brimson Stuart; her brother, Jimmy Brimson; sister-in-law Deanna Nevil Mullins; and Richard Mullins in behalf of Tony Stevens, a cousin. But, perhaps the most telling statement of the proceeding came from young Lauren Nevil. Walking with a slight limp to the witness stand, Lauren seated herself, then stood and politely insisted that Wright administer the witness oath to her, as he had to the adults. And, with a child-like eagerness, she read a short statement that, while innocently unaware of the gravity of the proceedings, urged Coe to seek divine forgiveness. “Please consider going to church when you get out of jail, and opening your heart to the man who put you on this earth; and, even though you have disobeyed his rules, maybe, one day he will forgive you and you can go to heaven where you forced my mom to be today,” Lauren read. “May God show you the right path to lead you on.” Initial investigation by the Arkansas State Police determined that both Coe's 2008 Toyota and the 2002 Chevrolet driven by Steven Nevil, 31, were westbound on I-30 in Hope when the accident occurred about 9 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2012. ASP Trooper First Class Kyle Peek determined at the time of the accident that Coe's Toyota veered into the path of the Nevil vehicle, causing both vehicles to leave the roadway, both vehicles striking several trees before coming to rest. Kathryn Nevil, a passenger in her husband's vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene by Hempstead County Coroner Ben Brazzel. Coe was charged with negligent homicide in the death of Kathryn Nevil, “...as a result of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and/or while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more in his breath or blood...” at the time of the accident, according to the information of charges filed in circuit court.

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