SALEM, Va. – Members of two families embraced each other Wednesday, more than a year after a collision changed their lives forever.
A Roanoke man chose not to argue against the charge that he hit and killed another man while driving after drinking alcohol. Evan Andrew Sarver, 23, showed remorse and apologized to Carlissa Brooks-Ashley, the widow of the man he hit and killed in April of last year.
There were many emotional moments inside and outside the courtroom Wednesday. The 10 News crew was speaking with Brooks-Ashley outside the courthouse when Sarver walked by. She called out to him, and his parents walked over to give Brooks-Ashley a hug.
Then, still crying, she walked over to Sarver. The two embraced and spoke through tears for a short time. Ashley said Sarver told her he was sorry. She said she accepts his apology.
“I don't hate him,” she said. “I hold no malice or anything in my heart towards him but I do feel like he should do some time.”
It was the first time the two had seen each other since the collision.
Walter Kenneth Ashley, 71, died in the early hours of April 27 on Williamson Road in the Hollins Area when he was walking home from the hospital.
Brooks-Ashley said she’s still devastated by the death of her husband.
“It's just hard having someone ripped away from your life,” she said.
Sarver, who goes by the name Andrew, pleaded no contest Wednesday to DUI manslaughter, which is effectively a guilty plea. It acknowledges that the evidence is enough for a judge to find him guilty.
The commonwealth’s attorney said he hit Ashley unintentionally, but the two sides don’t agree on whether the collision happened on or off the road.
The prosecution says Ashley died instantly. He had a cut to his aorta, fractured ribs, injuries to his torso and both his arms and both his legs were broken. Ashley’s shoes were about 100 feet away from the collision and pictures shown in court show the location of his dentures at the scene.
Brooks-Ashley said it was difficult to hear the description of his injuries once more.
“He took my husband's life,” she said. “His body was mangled and I had to live with that because I had to go identify him.”
She thinks the sentence won't be as long as it should be but she doesn’t want Sarver to spend his life in prison. The judge did not set a date for sentencing.
The charge could mean Sarver could spend up to 10 years in prison, according to Virginia law, but it’s unclear what his sentence will be after he showed remorse and pleaded no contest.
Sarver admits to drinking alcohol that night, although police say he originally told them that he hadn’t had anything to drink.
Ashley was an Army veteran who moved to Roanoke County in May of 2006. He leaves behind four adult sons. His wife said he retired from the Army in 2003 and started working as a certified nursing assistant at Catawba Hospital and Hollins Manor. She said he was a caring man who looked out for his neighbors and his patients.
She said he had almost made it home the night he died.
The commonwealth’s attorney said, after the collision around 1 a.m., Sarver returned home at first, but then went back to the scene with his mother.
He told police he thought he hit a deer. Sarver’s lawyer said Wednesday Sarver was shocked when he realized he had hit a man.
The commonwealth’s attorney said Sarver failed some of the sobriety tests officer performed about two hours after the collision, saying he couldn’t balance during some of the tests.
The defense said it will present more evidence at sentencing, adding that Sarver has “true regret” and that it was an “unfortunate accident.”
The judge ordered Sarver to take a substance abuse assessment.