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Minister faces wanton murder charges in Kentucky DUI

A truck driver and weekend minister faces life in prison if convicted of wanton murder in addition to driving drunk and driving a commercial vehicle while drunk.

The trial of 41-year-old Daniel Keith Gabbard, of the Cincinnati area, started this week. The opening days were filled with gruesome images of a crushed Buick, flattened under the weight of a semi-truck. 

Gabbard was driving that 19,000 pound truck, and the victim in the Buick, Doug Wright, died at the scene. Doug Wright was a prosecutor in the area where the incident took place, and his wife is a lawyer in Falmouth. She was present during the opening stages of the trial. 

The defense team did not dispute the facts presented, but they did argue that Gabbard did not act wantonly. Wanton – in legal terms – means a reckless disregard for consequences. If the jury finds Gabbard did not act wantonly, they will have the option of charging a less-punishable second-degree manslaughter. This could lead to a 5 to 10 year sentence.

Gabbard was a Pentecostal minister at Upton Church on weekends. He is married with two children, and many would assume he is not the type to be involved in a drunk driving accident. However, during the week, according to the defense team, Gabbard suffered under the weight of addiction in his “second life.” He was a tractor-trailer driver, constantly on the road, and constantly drinking.

Gabbard’s family apparently did not even know he drank alcohol at all, and they suspected a misunderstanding in the hours following the crash. Gabbard, however, waived his Fifth Amendment right after the crash and told a very different story. He confessed, publicly apologized, and prepared to accept his punishment.

Gabbard admitted to drinking 16 beers in his truck prior to the accident. His BAC was measured at .18%. His defense team plans to call him to the stand in his own defense. Gabbard, though he had the option of wearing street clothes to trial, has remained in his jumpsuit. He will likely throw himself at the mercy of the court for a smaller sentence.

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