District Attorney Shannon Wallace, left, prepares the papers for Ryan Quinton, right, to sign in his plea of guilty in the December 2013 death of his bride as his attorney Scott Poole, center, watches.
Outside was gray and rainy, while inside the courtroom was somber and crowded Tuesday afternoon as Ryan Quinton pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the wedding-day crash that killed his bride in December 2013.
Quinton, 29, of Jasper also pleaded guilty to separate charges of driving under the influence in May 2014, just months after his wife’s death.
Family members from both the bride and groom’s sides of the family attended the sentencing in support of Quinton, including the man’s mother, Diane Quinton, who testified what it was like when she arrived at the hospital to see her son after the wreck.
“The first words out of his mouth were, he said, ‘Momma, as God as my witness I want to be with Kali, I don’t want to live anymore.’ He was devastated,” she said crying from the witness stand. Ryan Quinton wept as he listened to his mother’s testimony.
Quinton was behind the wheel as he and his new wife, Kali Shay Dobson, 25, of Ball Ground left their wedding reception in Ball Ground on Dec. 30, 2013. But the couple never made it to their honeymoon
“She was his soulmate and he lost her, and he was blaming himself for it,” she told the courtroom, as family members fought back tears.
Cherokee Superior Court Judge David Cannon Jr. gave Quinton the maximum sentence of 15 years for vehicular homicide, with the first 2 to 3 months to be served in a state-run detention center, and the remainder on probation.
As a condition of the sentencing, Cannon said Quinton would not be issued a driver’s license for at least five years.
“No one believes that you intended to kill your wife,” Cannon said while handing down his sentence. “This should’ve been a joyous occasion, but instead it was the worst possible tragedy imaginable.”
Quinton spoke during the sentencing, telling the judge and family members, “they’ll never know how sorry I am.”
He asked Cannon to consider treatment in his sentence, saying, “I’m begging y’all for help.”
As part of the sentencing, Quinton will have to complete 2,000 hours of community service and pay thousands in fines. Quinton will also be required to complete a DUI court program, which includes monitoring, counseling, meetings and other work.
For the separate charges of driving under the influence, reckless driving and failure to stop at a stop sign, Quinton was sentenced to serve 24 months in jail, with an additional 12 months that will only be served if he fails to complete the DUI court program. He was given credit for the nine months he served since being taken into custody in May.
On the day of the tragic wreck in December 2013, Quinton and Dobson married at about 4 p.m. at the Wheeler House in Ball Ground, a popular event venue where the couple also held their wedding reception.
According to evidence presented by Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace, the newlyweds left the wedding reception art about 8 p.m., with Quinton in the driver’s seat and Dobson in the passenger seat — not wearing a seat belt.
At the intersection of Old Canton and Highway 5, Wallace said evidence showed Quinton began to “power brake” and “lay drag,” which caused him to lose control of the car.
The red Pontiac Firebird he was driving left the roadway and went off an embankment, flipping several times. Dobson was thrown from the vehicle as it flipped down the embankment, and the car finally came to rest on top of the bride.
Dobson was pronounced dead on the scene; Wallace said the cause of death was ruled as “mechanical asphyxiation.”
Blood tests conducted by the hospital and Georgia Bureau of Investigation labs showed Quinton’s blood alcohol level to be 0.115 percent — over the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Quinton had told police that a dog ran into the road on the day of the wreck, causing him to swerve, but Wallace said further investigation showed he had been “laying drag.”
In the aftermath of the tragedy, five months later, Quinton said he was at Rocco’s Pub in Jasper, and decided to drive himself home after drinking “a few beers.”
A caller to emergency-911 told dispatchers that a car was driving erratically, and officers responded. According to Wallace, Quinton pulled out in front of an officer, who then followed him for a time.
Wallace said the officer saw Quinton fail to maintain his lane at least 10 times, before pulling him over for running a stop sign.
Quinton was tested and his blood alcohol level was measured at 0.158 percent, Wallace said.
Attorney Scott Poole represented Quinton in the case, and said Dobson’s parents were unable to attend the hearing because “it was more than they could bear,” but noted that the entire Dobson family supported Quinton.
As Poole called several character witnesses to testify on Quinton’s behalf, Quinton fought back tears.
His older brother, Kayle Quinton, was at Rocco’s Pub and offered to drive Ryan home the night of his DUI arrest in May.
“I felt like I let him down,” his other brother said, adding that he wished he had decided to drive his younger brother home regardless of what he said.
In closing, Poole choked back tears himself.
“I’ve heard it said before that men are punished by their sins, and not for their sins,” Poole said. “No punishment could be worse than what he’s already gone through.”
Wallace said there was no winner in this situation, not Quinton, not the families and not the state.
“I agree he’s been punished by losing his wife,” she said, adding that “just because you killed your wife on your wedding day,” you should still be held accountable.
Wallace pointed out Quinton’s history of reckless driving, including four speeding tickets, and said it was a pattern going back to 2003.
She said, unfortunately, the worst possible thing happened with Quinton’s pattern of reckless driving — it ended with someone dying.
Wallace said, “By the grace of God,” Quinton didn’t kill anyone else while driving under the influence of alcohol the second time.