Man sentenced for driving high and killing dad, injuring kids

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It was a Friday afternoon last August - Ben Woodruff and his kids, Ethan and Kathleen, were almost home. Woodruff was making a left-hand turn off of Governor John Sevier Highway into his subdivision when Scott Spangler crossed the center line, smashing into him. Woodruff died in the crash and his children were hurt.

"Ben is missed every moment of every day. People are always talking to me about how much they didn't realize he was a part of their lives. Even close friends have said, 'I've forgotten how often we've talked," said Ben's wife, Beth Woodruff.

Authorities said Spangler was high on crack cocaine when the wreck happened. He cut a deal with the sate - pleading guilty to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault. The judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison. And even though he's had five prior DUIs, he's eligible for parole after serving just 30 percent of his sentence, or six years. That's because he didn't have two other Class A, B or C felonies.

"We believe that the release eligibility date should change to be akin to murder 2 in these aggravated vehicular homicide cases," said Darren Berg, Beth Woodruff's attorney.

- which would give the judge the ability to order someone to serve up to 80 percent of his or her sentence. The Woodruff family wants to get the bill passed in the General Assembly next session.

"Six years is insane. And there's no opportunity to adjust it in any way right now. It would give the judge the ability to say, 'No, six years is not enough. We're giving you a 20 year sentence, and you have to deal with that before we'll even discuss getting you out of here,'" said Woodruff.

While Ben died in the crash, his kids survived - but Ethan suffered a traumatic brain injury. He's getting stronger every day, but he still has a long road to recovery. Ben's wife hopes the bill will keep other families from having to go through the same thing.

Beth Woodruff said Representative Ryan Haynes has already agreed to sponsor the bill. If it passes, it would have a big impact on how long others facing aggravated vehicular homicide could spend behind bars.

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