CLEARFIELD – A West Decatur man found guilty homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence was sentenced to state prison on Monday.
He was previously found guilty by Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
James John Tingle, 51, was sentenced to three to six years on the homicide by vehicle while DUI charge. He was ordered to refrain from the possession of alcohol as well as being prohibited form entering establishments that serve alcohol. On two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, he was sentenced to an additional 18 to 22 months in state prison, with the additional terms being consecutive to the homicide by vehicle while DUI term.
Tingle was also ordered to pay fines and costs as well as restitution to the victims in the case in the amount of $51,985 and to Geisinger Health Plan in the amount of $213,229.
The criminal complaint alleged that on Dec. 4, 2005, Tingle was traveling west on U.S. Route 322 and struck a car from behind. Tingle’s vehicle then traveled into the eastbound lane of traffic and struck another vehicle head-on. The occupants of the second vehicle, James Whited, James Whited Jr., and Linda Whited, were all transported to the Altoona General Trauma Center for injuries.
Linda Whited died 18 days after the crash following complications from surgery. Tingle requested a non-jury trial to contest the cause of Linda Whited’s death.
One expert testified at the trial that Linda Whited died as a result of tiny blood clots in her lungs that resulted from surgery Linda Whited received following the crash. The defense offered testimony from two expert witnesses to say that the blood clots did not cause Linda Whited’s death.
Family and friends of the Whited and Tingle families were in the court for the sentencing Monday morning. Ammerman noted that he received letters of support for both sides as well.
The Rev. James Whited Sr. and his son, James Whited Jr., both received serious injuries from the accident and addressed the court prior to Tingle’s sentencing.
“She meant the world to me,” said James Sr. of his wife. He asked the court to take into account the amount of suffering his family has gone through. He mentioned that his daughter could not make it to the sentencing because she could not handle it.
“I’m still dealing with everything from this,” said James Jr. He showed the court, and Tingle the scars he received from the accident. He stated that he has had four vertebrae fused, and half of his intestinal tract has been surgically removed.
“There’s so much she wanted to see me do,” said James Jr. “She can’t do that.”
“Mr. Tingle has accepted responsibility,” said Todd Narvol, Tingle’s defense attorney.
Narvol stated that the night of the accident was an “out of character,” foolish act on Tingle’s part for drinking and driving. He went over a number of things in Tingle’s life, including his activity in scouting and 32 years of working for the same employer.
One of Tingle’s lifelong friends, Jeffery Ennis, spoke on Tingle’s behalf, stating that he was there for his family when the Ennis family lost their son.
“Jim is much more compassionate than what he is being painted here as today,” said Ennis.
“He is a good man, basically,” said Narvol. “He made a really bad mistake on one night of his life that had tragic consequences.”
Tingle also spoke on his own behalf. He offered an apology to the Whiteds.
“I don’t want to hear it,” interjected James Sr. “You’ve had two years to apologize.”
Ammerman said that while he understood where James Sr.’s protest, it was Tingle’s Constitutional right to speak on his own behalf. Ammerman then instructed Tingle to direct any statements to the judge.
“I made a tragic mistake,” said Tingle. He added that he wished that he had died in the car accident rather than Linda Whited.
“She was so full of joy and happiness,” said Edward Walls, father of Linda Whited. “I hope he (Tingle) gets what he deserves.”
Tingle will begin serving his state sentence immediately.