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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