Front Royal man sentenced in DUI manslaughter case

Trevor Lee

FRONT ROYAL — Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp on Tuesday sentenced a local man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to involuntary DUI manslaughter after the vehicle’s passenger died in a February 2016 crash.

Trevor Bryant Lee, 30, entered a plea agreement in May where he pleaded guilty to an amended charge that was changed from aggravated vehicular manslaughter to involuntary DUI manslaughter. There were no sentencing terms set in the plea agreement, so the hearing was set for Tuesday.

Hupp sentenced Lee to 10 years imprisonment with two years suspended and eight years to serve. Upon his release, Lee must complete five years of supervised probation that will be followed by five years of unsupervised probation. Because of Lee’s history with traffic infractions, any violation of a traffic law will be considered a violation of the terms of his probation, Hupp added. Lee’s driving privileges were also revoked indefinitely, but he can apply to have them restored.

The DUI manslaughter charge stems from the Feb. 29, 2016 incident when Lee picked up 23-year-old Brandi Cook, also of Front Royal, in his 1996 Honda Civic while he was under the influence of THC, methamphetamine and marijuana. While speeding, the car swerved on Remount Road and the passenger side of the vehicle crashed into a tree, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton noted during the hearing.

Cook was pronounced dead at the scene. Severe head trauma sustained in the crash was determined to be the cause of death. Lee suffered permanent damage to his back from the crash, requiring multiple surgeries on his spine, Lee’s mother testified at the sentencing hearing.

About 10 of Lee’s family and friends attended the hearing to offer Lee their support. Around 15 members of Cook’s family and friends were also in attendance on behalf of their lost loved one.

Cook’s mother testified that the loss of her daughter has affected “just about every part of me.” She said that since her daughter was 4 years old, she would give her a handmade card for Mother’s Day; Cook’s mother collected 18 cards before her daughter’s February 2016 death, and noted that she would never have any more.

One of Cook’s aunts also testified, saying that Cook was “really a wonderful person.” She also said that she wanted the court to take into consideration that Lee had no regard for human life as he picked her up while under the influence unbeknownst to Cook. She added that Lee had not directly apologized to any of Cook’s immediate family, and his lack of remorse deserves the toughest punishment the court can give.

“If he showed accountability or responsibility, it’d be different,” she said.

Lee’s family testified that he did make efforts to apologize to Cook’s mother through Cook’s cousin, but was told that she was not yet ready to talk with Lee. Lee’s mother said that he had many sleepless nights after the crash, and that he often questioned God for taking Cook and letting Lee live. Lee’s father, during his testimony, extended an apology on behalf of the entire Lee family for their loss.

“As a parent, I can’t imagine what they’ve been through since that day,” he said, reiterating how sorry they were.

Lee had the opportunity to directly apologize to Cook’s family during the sentencing hearing, and he expressed remorse for the result of his actions and the loss of his friend.

“I truly am sorry for what happened that night,” Lee said. “Hopefully one day they can find it in their hearts to forgive me, that’s all that I can ask.”

Before sentencing, Wisely argued that Lee is very remorseful and that “he’s scarred from what happened,” physically and mentally. He added that there would be no amount of prison time that would be able to stand in for the life that was lost, and that Lee serving six years with time in the therapeutic community program through the Department of Corrections would be longer than what the amended offense calls for and would allow Lee to get drug treatment.

Layton argued for 10 years imprisonment with no time suspended, referencing Lee’s history of reckless driving and eluding police, his continued marijuana use after the crash, and his obsession with speeding.

Hupp returned with his decision by first noting that the victim’s family has suffered a great loss because of Lee’s actions, and that he can’t imagine the pain the family has endured. He also recognized that Lee’s family has suffered as a result, just not as greatly.

“It’s just a sad case all the way around,” Hupp said.

The judge then emphasized that no matter what sentence he imposes, Lee, whose fiancee is expecting their first child, will still have the opportunity to be involved in his child’s life down the line, while Cook will never have that same chance.

Correction:  This story should have stated that Trevor Bryant Lee was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, with two years suspended.  He will be serving eight years.