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WKYT Investigates: Deadly crash driver's history

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

WHITLEY COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - It was a terrible crash that took the life of David Vanderpool, Gary and Patricia Caldwell, and their daughter and son-in-law Julia and Brent Robinson. While not much is known about the moments before the deadly crash, a look at Vanderpool's history suggests the whole nightmare could've been avoided.

"He was on parole at the time of this accident which would have ended sometime in 2015," said Whitley County Commonwealth's Attorney Allen Trimble, who says his jurisdiction had plenty of run-ins with Vanderpool.

The 31-year-old has faced roughly 35 charges in seven years. Most of them are theft related, but a few stand out like in 2006 he was charged with driving on a suspended license. In March of 2012, he was arrested for a felony theft charge where he was found guilty and sentenced to five years. He served only nine months.

"At the time he was sentenced, he had served about about 180-some days. All people get credit for the time they have served, and under the current regulations a person is eligible to be paroled on a five year sentence after they have served nine months," explained Trimble.

On December 5th, Vanderpool was arrested again, but this time it was in Lincoln County for driving on a suspended license. The next day he pled guilty, despite being on parole he was sentenced to just 30 days. Again, he skipped past the sentencing after Lincoln County District Judge Janet Booth gave him a two year conditional discharge, or simply probation. A condition that Trimble says would've been unsupervised.

"Probably at that time no one was aware of it, and I'm sure that if they were they may have looked at it differently. I don't think it was their fault," said Trimble.

Just 18 days later, Kentucky State Police say Vanderpool sent his car airborne over the median of US Highway 25E, in Knox County, and head-on into the Caldwell's car.

"Those are the type of people who, very frankly, would be better served, personally, by a longer sentence," Trimble stated.

Twice in the same year Vanderpool was sentenced to time that he never fully served. That's something that friends and family of the victims, and even Vanderpool's own mother, say greatly impacted what happened that Christmas Eve night.

"If he had stayed in, he'd have been alive today," said Jackie Cureton, Vanderpool's mother.

She says she pushed for him to stay in the halfway house, but instead he was released. Cureton said she hoped that time would help her son break his drug habit. While she hadn't spoken with her son since September, Cureton's heart is breaking.

"I just want to know what happened," she said fighting back tears, "and I am so sorry for the other lost, very much sorry for the others lost."

The State Transportation Cabinet says Vanderpool's license was again under suspension at the request of the Whitley County Court System, in November of 2011.

"There is nothing that prevents a person without a license or a with suspended license from getting a set of keys, going to a car, and taking off," said Trimble.

Still, David Vanderpool got behind the wheel and his choice had a major impact.

We requested a comment from Judge Booth's office, but our calls were not returned.

Family and Friends of the Caldwells and Robinsons, gathered on Thursday for a visitation. They say the four were headed home to celebrate Christmas after the Robinson's flew to Kentucky from Florida.


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