Terrance Gadsden will not walk his niece down the aisle next year. He will no longer provide his sister advice about shopping for a home. He’ll never again babysit his cousins’ children.
Instead, his family’s last memory of the 44-year-old Charleston man is witnessing his final breaths in a hospital intensive care unit after a torturous 11 days.
“When they took him out of the induced coma so he could say goodbye to his family, his last request was that we not leave him alone. So we sang and prayed for what seemed like hours until he left us,” his cousin Detrya Youngblood told a judge Wednesday.
Youngblood and 11 other family members showed up at a Charleston County courtroom to watch the man accused of causing Gadsden’s death be sentenced to prison.
Jeffrey Reynolds, 34, of Buist Avenue in North Charleston, pleaded guilty to felony driving under the influence involving death. Circuit Judge Thomas Hughston sentenced Reynolds to 10 years in prison and fined him $10,100.
Reynolds, originally from Beaufort, was a coach for the Lowcountry Highrollers women’s roller derby team and most recently was working for a maintenance and repair company for container trucks, his attorney Dale Savage said.
At about 1 a.m. on March 24, 2011, Reynolds was driving to his North Charleston home along Interstate 526, Savage said. He slammed into the back of another car, driven by Gadsden. The impact sent Gadsden’s car into the guard rail in the center of the highway, prosecutors said.
Gadsden was rushed to the hospital with a broken neck. He underwent several surgeries, was put into an induced coma and died almost two weeks after the crash.
“This was the only felony DUI case involving death that I’ve worked where the victim was able to make a statement before they passed,” Assistant Solicitor Greg Voigt said.
Gadsden told authorities he saw the headlights of a car coming at him at a high rate of speed but he didn’t have enough time to do anything, according to Voigt.
Reynolds was driving at least 70 mph and Gadsden was following the speed limit, according to investigators.
Three hours after the crash, Reynolds’ blood was drawn at the hospital, where he was being treated for head injuries and a fractured sternum. The results showed his blood alcohol level was 0.23, nearly three times the 0.08 legal limit, Voigt said.
Reynolds suffers from alcoholism and was using alcohol as a coping mechanism following the death of his mother in 2002, according to Savage.
Before he was sentenced, Reynolds apologized to Gadsden’s family. “I don’t believe there are enough words to describe how sorry I am. I never meant to hurt anyone,” he said. “I’ve thought of this accident every day since it has happened. Not a day has gone by I haven’t thought about it hundreds of times. I’m ashamed of my actions.”
The apology is not nearly enough, and neither is the 10-year sentence, according to members of Gadsden’s family. They said they’ve lost their protector, their adviser and the only remaining elder male figure in the family.