PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth woman will serve over a year in prison after a 2018 DUI crash that took the life of her friend.
29-year-old Evonne Brinkley pleaded guilty Thursday morning to several charges in the death of Cecilia Wells.
The head-on crash happened back on Oct. 28, 2018, when Brinkley drove west in the eastbound lanes of I-264 near Victory Boulevard in Portsmouth. Wells and Brinkley had left Peabody’s nightclub at the Oceanfront about half an hour earlier at 1:30 a.m.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Johnson said Brinkley’s blood alcohol level was .197, or nearly two and a half times the legal limit, when she smashed head-on into a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck driven by Tyler West. He and his wife had broken bones but were able to recover. Wells was killed in the passenger seat of Brinkley’s Chevrolet Equinox.
Brinkley pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter while driving intoxicated, two counts of maiming while intoxicated for the injuries to the Wests, and DUI. In accordance with the plea agreement worked out in advance, Judge Kenneth Melvin sentenced Brinkley to a total of 21 years in prison, but suspended all but 16 months.
Wells’ late grandmother told 10 On Your Side the day after the incident that she had no ill will toward Brinkley and that the two women were good friends.
Johnson said in court that the Wells family was supportive of the plea agreement and that her mother “did not want to see two lives ruined.”
However, a statement to 10 On Your Side Thursday afternoon from Wells’ younger sister Latoya disputed that. “Nobody in my family is OKAY with this sentencing. It was an unfair sentencing and we believe that [Brinkley] should have received more time,” she wrote. “In our eyes, they were NOT friends and we did not know Evonne.”
Wells had an 8-year-old daughter; Brinkley is the mother of three.
Melvin agreed to permit Brinkley to delay reporting to prison until February so that she could support her mother, who is terminally ill with cancer.