Quentin Gregory Miller was driving home to Mount Pleasant in his pride and joy, his Ford Mustang. The 32-year-old man was crossing the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge on Dec. 17, 2011, at around 4 a.m. when a car came up from behind him.
The car slammed into the back of Miller's Mustang, whirling it into the concrete wall. The Mustang burst into flames with Miller still inside.
He likely was already gone before the car caught fire, according to prosecutors, but the way he died still haunts his mother, Nancy.
"We didn't get to see his body. I didn't get to give him a hug and kiss goodbye. I didn't get to say I love you," she said Thursday afternoon in a Charleston courtroom, where the man who was driving the car that crashed into Miller accepted a negotiated plea.
Adam Burnell, 24, of Mount Pleasant, who was an assistant manager of Husk at the time of the wreck, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide. He was originally charged with felony DUI resulting in death, which could carry up to 25 years in prison. The negotiation came with a 10-year sentence, which Circuit Judge Roger Young accepted, calling the prison term "appropriate."
Nancy Miller and her husband, Terry, addressed the judge with Burnell watching. They spoke of their loss and the hundreds of letters they've received from around the country from Miller's friends and family.
She expressed the pain her family is dealing with but acknowledged the grief Burnell's family is feeling. Burnell's parents were in the courtroom.
"But actions have consequences. Our family and friends have received a life sentence without Quentin," Nancy Miller said. "I thought I knew all about forgiveness, but I didn't. I want to forgive you completely, Adam. I will eventually."
Burnell apologized to the judge and to Miller's family.
"If I could do anything to take it back to make it better, I would," Burnell said. "I hope and pray this result today will help give some comfort and solace to friends and family of Mr. Miller."
Burnell, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit in South Carolina, according to prosecutors.
Ninth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Chad Simpson, who prosecuted the case, told the judge that Burnell was seen driving recklessly on East Bay Street before wrecking on the bridge.
One driver saw Burnell's car speeding on the street, and was so alarmed that he pulled over to let Burnell pass, Simpson said.
Another witness was walking across East Bay with his girlfriend when Burnell drove through a red light, causing the man to pull his girlfriend out of the way, according to Simpson.
The parent company of Husk restaurant agreed to pay $1.1 million in August 2012 to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Miller's family.
In the lawsuit, Miller's family alleged that the Queen Street restaurant allowed Burnell to drink excessively on the premises after hours, then get behind the wheel.
Neighborhood Dining Group Inc. and its insurance carrier, Peerless Indemnity, were to pay the settlement to Miller's parents and his common-law wife, Maggie Hall. The company has denied any fault or liability in the resolution.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
Quentin Miller, 32, of Mount Pleasant, was killed in a crash on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge on Dec. 17, 2011.×
Adam Burnell, 24, of Mount Pleasant, pleaded guilty Thursday to reckless homicide. He was sentenced in a Charleston courtroom to 10 years in prison.×
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