A Berry man has been sentenced to 15 years and one day in prison for first-degree assault after a drunk driving incident from last December injured a 17-year-old girl.

Wesley Aaron Studdard, 31, pleaded guilty to the charge at a hearing last Tuesday in Fayette County Circuit Court. He had one adult DUI conviction prior to the incident.

On December 13, 2020, the 17-year-old victim was traveling along Alabama Highway 13 in her 2006 Mazda6 when she stopped, waiting for traffic to clear to pull into her driveway.

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At approximately 5 p.m., Studdard crashed his 2002 Toyota Tacoma into the rear of the victim's car at approximately 60 miles per hour. The victim's car was pushed across lanes of traffic, eventually stopping almost 195 feet from the point of impact.

A witness told investigators with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's Traffic Homicide Division that Studdard had exited his vehicle and proceeded to throw something into the grass, along with a cooler.

Investigators recovered the cooler, as well as several opened and unopened beer cans from the crash site.

The victim was flown to UAB Hospital in Birmingham and was treated for traumatic injuries to her head, face, neck, chest, lungs and extremities. She is still recovering from the injuries she received during the crash.

Studdard was checked by medical staff and later failed a sobriety test administered four hours after the crash. At 9:12 p.m. his blood alcohol level was at 0.14.

District Attorney Andy Hamlin, who oversees the 24th Circuit, announced Studdard's sentence in a Wednesday press release.

“Mr. Studdard’s decision to get behind the wheel while impaired nearly took this young lady’s life,” Hamlin said. “But for his decisions, this never would have happened.”

Studdard remains in the Fayette County jail awaiting transport to the Alabama Department of Corrections. Due to the length of his sentence, Studdard will not be eligible for a reduced sentence for good behavior.

"The Alabama State Troopers conducted a thorough investigation and presented a really good case,” Hamlin said. “I’m glad the defendant agreed to take responsibility for his actions. Hopefully, this will bring some comfort to the victim as she continues to heal."

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