Drunken driver gets 15 years in prison for crash that crippled 10-year-old girl

DOVER — “What does it take to stop him and people like him?”

The mother of a 10-year-girl who was severely crippled when a drunken driver slammed into the rear of their car on March 1 in Dover asked the judge that question in Superior Court Wednesday prior to the defendant receiving a 15-year prison sentence.

The stark reality of 40-year-old Oliver Barnes’ decision to drink and drive that night played out with the emotional victim impact statement from the grieving mother, prosecution and defense attorneys assertions, and words from the judge and the defendant.

A wheelchair-bound 10-year-old girl who suffered a severe brain injury, however, may never speak again.

She can barely move while needing constant monitoring and assistance due to the mishap on Bay Road and Blue Hen Boulevard.

Smyrna resident Toni Dulin was injured when the a vehicle she was riding in stopped at a red light and was then rear-ended by car traveling 96 mph, according to the prosecution.

Oliver Barnes

The driver was found to be over three times the legal limit of intoxication with a .25 blood alcohol concentration and never applied the brakes, Deputy Attorney General Stephen E. Smith said prior to sentencing for DUI and first-degree assault.

“(It’s) 236 days and counting that have gone by and I have not heard my child’s voice,” Toni’s mother Adrianna Allen said in remarks before the court. She added that her daughter has undergone four surgeries and now considered to be trapped inside her body.

Ms. Allen, treated for a head injury and then released from Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover following the crash, questioned why Barnes was even on the street after given bail on another DUI charge.

She called on the state’s criminal justice and law enforcement system to toughen the handling of drunk drivers before the next tragedy takes place.

“What does it take to stop him and people like him?” Ms. Allen asked before resident Judge William L. Witham Jr.

She added that impaired drivers are traveling in the morning, afternoon and night and “You can not enjoy the day if you’re worrying if the man next to you is driving drunk.”

Those with pending DUI charges currently have the dangerous ability to “go back to the liquor store and get back on the road” while their cases are adjudicated, according to Ms. Allen.

Repeat offenders

Ms. Allen surmised that while her daughter must live with a permanent brain injury, the defendant will eventually be let free and go “out on the road to destroy people’s lives. This time he will kill someone, but who will it be?”

The mother lamented multiple convicted drunk drivers who are “caught and released to go out and commit the repeat offense over and over and over again.”

Describing himself as “deeply troubled and sorry for his actions,” in a prepared statement, Barnes said he prays each day for the family whose members so terribly affected. His defense attorney Caitlin Gregory said he “admits he will never be able to comprehend the grief and suffering experienced by the family” for the assault.

Addressing reporters after leaving the courtroom, Ms. Allen said the defendant’s words to the judge didn’t matter because “he just wanted to make himself look good.”

According to investigation, Barnes’ own minor son had earlier gotten out of the vehicle due to concerns about how he was driving. The man suffered a spinal injury in the crash and was treated at the hospital.

“If he didn’t care about his own child, he didn’t care about mine,” Ms. Allen said.

Nothing that Barnes also had an earlier rape charge against him and drug dealing conviction, along with $25,000 due in child support, DAG Smith pushed for a maximum sentence, contending that “removing (Oliver Barnes) from society would improve society. We would lose nothing.”

As the prosecutor spoke, a photo of a bright eyed, smiling daughter with arms wrapped around her similarly beaming mother prior to the crash was displayed prominently in the courtroom. From what the judge surmised, Toni was a “talented 10-year-old (who was) optimistic, nurturing and literally lit up a room.”

Speaking to Barnes, Judge Witham said “Obviously you turned yourself into a human time bomb by getting in the car and driving like you did.

“There’s no excuse for that.”

The judge also ordered Barnes to take treatment while incarcerated, and serve decreasing levels of probation and another program upon release. A 25-year sentence was suspended for the decade and a half in prison.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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