Three Tennessee boys were orphaned on Christmas Day after an alleged drunk driver violently slammed into their family’s truck.
Patricke Conley was charged Wednesday with two counts of vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault for allegedly killing Dustin and Brittany Dillard and leaving their children seriously injured.
Conley pleaded not guilty to the murders Thursday, Fox Chattanooga reported. He arrived at his hearing in a wheelchair and with a fresh gash across his face.
The holiday tragedy began when Conley hit a mailbox on I-64 in Bradley County, a Tennessee Highway Patrol report alleges. The 42-year-old Cleveland man lost control of his SUV, swerved across two lanes of traffic onto a grassy median and up a steep embankment before going airborne and colliding with the Dillard’s jeep, the statement claims.
Dustin and Brittany, both 33, were killed. Their sons “sustained serious bodily injuries,” responding officers found.
A witness said he and his girlfriend’s father ran to the family’s car, which was flipped on its top, after hearing the boys screaming.
“I had my handgun in my pocket, so I took the butt of it, and I smashed the window,” a man identified as Charles told the National Desk.
The duo were unable to get the children out and were forced to wait for authorities to arrive.
Conley’s car “had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage in the driver’s compartment and there were numerous Bud Light cans scattered throughout the crash scene,” the report states.
Conley was also charged with traffic violations, open container violations and violating his probation. He was once sentenced to 8 years on drug charges.
The Dillard boys are improving, Bradley County Schools reported on behalf of the family. All three are expected to see a “positive prognosis” in the coming weeks.
To commemorate their parents’ lives, students at Walker Valley High School, where Brittany was a teacher, will paint a giant rock that is decorated for special occasions, assistant principal John Burroughs told Local 3 news.