A soft whirring filled the courtroom as the motors on Karen Hamilton King's electric wheelchair lifted her higher. Now that she had a clear line of sight to Circuit Judge Markley Dennis, she began to speak.

"I prayed to God that he'd open my heart. I just want you to give him the maximum so he won't hurt nobody like this again," King said of the man who killed her granddaughter, 9-year-old Da'Vieona Hamilton, in a DUI crash in 2016.

King, who was driving, survived the crash but was left with a spinal cord injury. 

She was joined Wednesday afternoon by numerous relatives inside the downtown Charleston courthouse for a plea hearing in the case of Dale Edward Yarborough, a 58-year-old Hanahan resident who in the crash also injured another of King's granddaughters and a person in a separate vehicle.

Da'Vieona Hamilton (copy) (copy)

Da'Vieona Hamilton. Provided

Yarborough pleaded guilty. His blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.219 percent, almost triple the legal limit of 0.08. 

Dennis sentenced him to 18 years on one count of felony DUI involving death and 15 years on three counts of felony DUI involving great bodily injury. The sentences will be served concurrently and Yarborough was granted credit for nearly two years of time served in jail.

During the hearing, members of Hamilton's family spoke as Yarborough's family sat in silence. Many spoke of the profound grief they grapple with daily. 

Sabrina Gibbs, Hamilton's other grandmother, echoed King's comments. 

"What he did to them and what he did to us, we're going to hurt forever," Gibbs said. "The only thing that I can do now is look at pictures. He don't need to be back out here."

After the sentencing, King said she felt like Yarborough should have received the maximum sentence under the plea deal, which was 20 years. King said that while the crash has left her unable to walk, she's continuing to attend physical therapy and hopes to regain the independent lifestyle she previously led. 

Assistant Solicitor Edward Corvey described the chain of events that led up to the series of crashes and Hamilton's death.

In the moments before the crash, around 6 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2016, Yarborough was exiting Interstate 26 at Cosgrove Avenue and heading toward West Ashley, the assistant solicitor said.

At one point while exiting, Yarborough's car computer recorded a speed of 109 mph, Corvey said. By the time he rear-ended the first of the vehicles involved in the crash, Yarborough's was still traveling 87 mph.

The assistant solicitor spoke about the carnage of the crash, of how Yarborough's vehicle was launched onto Cosgrove and how it "effectively torpedoed" one of the other cars involved.

"Unfortunately this was bound to happen at some point," Corvey said. "I think this was a man who was kind of spiraling out of control."

Corvey also spoke about Yarborough's prior substance abuse and problems with alcohol.

Felony DUI Plea

Tenisha Gibbs (center) speaks before the sentencing of Dale Edward Yarborough at the Charleston County Courthouse on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. Gibbs lost her 9-year-old daughter in a fatal wreck caused by Yarborough. Yarborough pleaded guilty to felony DUI and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Brad Nettles/Staff

Addressing the crash's survivors and their family members, Dennis spoke about the role of a criminal court and empathized with their pain.

"If what we do here today could cause all your hurt to go away and restore your child. ... I'd do it in a heartbeat," the judge said. 

After pleading guilty and before the sentencing, Yarborough addressed the victims and their relatives directly.

Dressed in a blue button-down shirt tucked into khaki pants, he turned to face them. His left hand was free; his right hand was bound in a handcuff attached to a metal chain around his waist. He fumbled with pieces of yellow paper, leaned on his walker for support and said not one day goes by that he doesn't pray for the families he's impacted.

"The truth is, no words can justify what happened," Yarborough said. "I'd give anything to change what happened."

Felony DUI Plea

Dale Edward Yarborough speaks to victims and their families after pleading guilty to felony DUI at the Charleston County Courthouse on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. Yarborough was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Brad Nettles/Staff

This story has been updated to correctly reflect Dale Yarborough's blood alcohol content.

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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