West Ashley man involved in fatal wreck after friend’s wake sentenced to 14 years in prison

James Munn

A 21-year-old West Ashley man who killed a teen in a wreck last year after leaving his friend’s wake was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison.

James Munn pleaded guilty to a charge of felony driving under the influence, according to the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

The Aug. 16 crash killed 17-year-old Kylie Gillette of Johns Island. The night before the fatal wreck, Munn had attended a wake for his best friend, 20-year-old Matt Gaither, who died in a plane crash while taking off from Mount Pleasant Regional Airport along with his flight instructor, Graham Borland, 33, of North Charleston.

Around 12:30 p.m. the day after the wake, Munn’s 2006 Chevrolet Equinox crashed into a 2011 Jeep Compass driven by Kylie, an honor student and rising senior at James Island Charter High School. She died at the scene.

The crash report noted deputies and hospital staff saying Munn appeared to be intoxicated, and a blood test showed his alcohol level at .217. The legal limit is .08.

Investigators determined that Munn was traveling 94 mph five seconds before the crash on River Road near Main Road. The posted speed limit is 45 mph.

Gillette was driving 47 mph, and there was no indication she had time to slow down before Munn crossed the center line coming around a curve and hit her head on, according to the report. Blood tests showed no alcohol in her system.

Gillette was a National Honor Society student and third in her class at James Island Charter. She was involved in youth ministry at Ashley River Baptist Church. The church has set up a scholarship fund for James Island Charter High School students in her name.

Munn’s attorney, Jack Sinclaire, said Gillette’s family asked for his client to be sentenced to 14 years after the prosecutor said they prayed about it and talked to their pastor. He said they felt like that sentence was what demanded justice.

Sinclaire said he asked the judge for a more lenient sentence, noting that the average active sentence for the last 19 felony DUIs in Charleston County was 5.72 years in prison.

He said the case was a lose-lose for everyone involved. Munn had been going through a lot even before the crash, including being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease, along with depression, ADHD and impulse control issues. He spent six weeks in a Florida rehabilitation program after trying to overdose on sleeping pills last summer, Sinclaire said.

Once he lost Gaither, described as his closest friend, Sinclaire said, Munn was unable to deal and “just numbed his pain.” He participated in drinking the night of Gaither’s wake, woke up about 11 a.m. the next morning and ate breakfast, played two games of pool and then left.

“He did not realize he was under the influence when he got behind the wheel,” Sinclaire said.

After the crash, Munn and his family was devastated for the Gillettes, he added.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.