Emotions Flare as Street Racer Sentenced in Teen's Death

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Loudon, Loudon County (WVLT) - Two cars speeding through the streets of Lenoir City. An innocent victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The crash killed Tabitha Helton and left her parents with a lifetime of despair, further complicated when the suspect receives a short prison sentence.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb joins us with more on one mother's story of frustration.

Family members of Tabitha Helton did not get an apology in court Monday from Thomas Ward.

And they say they didn't get justice either.

After pleading guilty to reckless vehicular homicide in the death of Tabitha Helton, Thomas Ward got to relive the incident through the eyes of Tabitha's family.

"It wasn't Tabitha I was looking at anymore. It was horrible," says Jeff Helton, Tabitha's father.

"I saw her in that mangled mess that was her car. I saw her laying there and I knew in my heart right there that she was gone," adds Tabitha's mother, Kimberly Stinnett.

Ward showed no emotion throughout the proceeding as Tabitha's family explained to the court the pain they say Ward has caused them.

"And there's nothing worse than having to pick out your own child's coffin," says Stinnett.

Helton died in January 2004 while Ward was racing another person in downtown Lenoir City.
Ward agreed to a three year sentence earlier this year, but the judge split the sentence giving him 120 days in jail, the remainder on probation.

"I question his ability to set and be a judge. I mean, I really question that. I cannot comprehend 120 days for doing what he did," Stinnett says.

Family members say they never got even an apology from Ward.

"In fact, he laughs when he sees us out in public. Tabitha may have well been a stray dog to him," Stinnett says.

"Someday he's going to realize since he has a child of his own, he's going to realize how I feel," Jeff Helton adds.

The second driver has already been sentenced and received thirty days in jail which he has appealed.


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  • by rusty Location: lenoir city on Oct 20, 2009 at 05:06 AM
    i went to high school with her. i met her briefly once. i know her sister though. so my heart goes out to them. i also know thomas i never liked or disliked him. even though he always seemed to be full of himself. i just chose to not hang out with him not my type of person i guess. my brother has been in jail for about a year, and a half now for different kinds of theft, and thomas gets 120 days in jail. i couldnt believe my ears when i heard that. so what can we learn from this. that it doesnt pay to be a theif, and if you want to kill someone, and get away with it. do not try to do it in secret, and cover it up. just find your victim, and slam your car into them. in plain sight for all to see. what is up with this messed up county? i knew cass mcmahan a girl killed at a house on town creek. the guy who killed her got 5 years probation. he shot her point blank, and got less time than thomas. when you put people on probation i guess you get more money. when you lock them up it cost you.
  • by Barbara Location: Colorado Springs, Co. on May 12, 2007 at 07:43 PM
    What if Mr. Lowlife Ward would have killed the girl friend. Would he get another 120 days. I hope the judge throws the book at him, he needs to be in jail NOW. Why is he still out running around, when does his 120 days start?
  • by A family friend Location: Knoxville on May 11, 2007 at 02:07 PM
    Apparently Thomas Leon Ward was arrested today for some osrt of domestic violence. Perhpas a follow up report to his sentencing on Monday is in order?
  • by Barbara Location: Colo. Springs, Co on May 10, 2007 at 01:06 PM
    I have followed this story since the day our sweet Tabby was killed. I can not beleive that the two low lifes that were breaking the law when the killed her have gotten away with it, the sentence they got is not even a slap on the hand. The judge or judges that did the sentenceing on these two needs to be investigated. Something is terribly wrong. My heart goes out to her parents and sister. What is this teaching our young people, that they can speed and kill someone and get away with it. God bless Tabby's family. I wonder if the judge or judges can sleep at night after this terrible unforgiveable thing they have done??
  • by Inexorable Location: Harriman on May 9, 2007 at 10:42 PM
    So the judge believes a life cut short by a disgusting display of selfish stupidity, total lack of respect for the law, and no regard to any other human life but that of his own? is a simple 120 days? A judge should be a respectable position held by an even more respectable man. I have 0 respect for this man as a judge. The fact that this fellow never showed any form of remorse or offered any form of apology makes him a disgusting excuse for a human being.
  • by Tom on May 9, 2007 at 04:27 PM
    This is in response to Joe's question. If the paper said she was making a u-turn, it was an error. Investigators have proven it was impossible that she was making that maneuver, based on the physical evidence. Even IF she had been making a u-turn, which she wasn't, the liablility still goes to the person who was traveling around 80 miles an hour.
  • by Tracy Location: Knoxville on May 9, 2007 at 02:33 PM
    These are the type of young adults that should be held accountable for what they did. If our young adults where held to the true standard of the law instead of getting a slap on the wrist we might not have so many older criminals. Reminds me, once again, why I like animals better than most people.
  • by Sherry Location: Lenoir City on May 9, 2007 at 12:15 PM
    I can't believe this WHO (the judge) would sentence someone to so little time. Since it HAS been proven they were speeding. Does a LIFE in Lenoir City mean so little??
  • by Sherry Hodges Location: Lenoir City on May 9, 2007 at 12:03 PM
    I have moved to Lenoir City a year ago and think this is shameful. I loved the small town atmosphere and could not believe they also have such small town attitudes. This is like the good ole boy system. It is shameful.
  • by Joe Location: Lenoir city on May 9, 2007 at 10:24 AM
    Didn't the paper say she was making a U turn when she got hit?
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