No DUI; driver gets six months in fatal crash

The driver of the pickup truck in which a 16-year-old Sperryville youth was killed last October was acquitted Tuesday of a drunk driving charge but found guilty of five other alcohol- and traffic-related charges.

Rappahannock Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge J. Gregory Ashwell also sentenced Charles Climo of Sperryville to six months in jail for his part in the early morning crash on Whorton Hollow Road near Castleton last Oct. 4 that killed Logan McKiernan, a junior and member of the football and wrestling teams at Rappahannock High School.

Because the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the accident, Ashwell said, state law prevented the court from imposing a more severe sentence on the now-18-year-old Climo.

After a trial in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations division of Rappahannock’s Combined District Court last week, Climo was found guilty of operating a vehicle after illegally consuming alcohol (illegally because he was underage), for which Ashwell sentenced him to the maximum 12 months in jail, suspending six months, and imposed a $500 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

For reckless driving, Climo received a second 12-month sentence, six months of which was also suspended, and another one-year license suspension. For underage possession of alcohol and two other age-related curfew and passenger violations, another $400 in fines and six months’ driver’s license suspension were imposed by Ashwell.

Before imposing the sentences, Ashwell said the court “is hamstrung by the law,” referring to a section of the Virginia state code that prevents an adult convicted of a crime committed as a juvenile from being sentenced to more than 12 months in jail.

“Some of the young people in this courtroom may have received driver’s licenses in this county and heard outlined this very scenario as everyone’s worst nightmare [resulting from] drinking and driving,” Ashwell said, referring to the cautionary counseling routinely offered to new drivers in Rappahannock by the courts and Commonwealth’s Attorney Peter G. Luke. “And this incident is every parent’s worst nightmare.”

McKiernan’s parents, Kimberly and Michael McKiernan, sat silently in the courtroom throughout the proceedings, and afterward declined to comment.

Climo’s jail terms will be served concurrently rather than consecutively, Ashwell said, because of the same sentencing restriction.
“I think the fact that the sentences can’t be consecutive is wrong,” said Jesse Ramirez, a RCHS senior-to-be who stood outside the courthouse after the verdicts and sentencing, talking quietly with other friends of McKiernan. “He [Climo] needed to pay a bigger price for what he did.”

While arguing for bail, which Ashwell set at $2,500 and was posted yesterday, Fairfax-based defense attorney Robert F. Horan III told Judge Ashwell that “my client has not consumed alcohol” since the accident last fall, in which the Ford pickup Climo was driving swerved off the road and struck a tree at about 3 a.m.

The McKiernans glanced at each other and shook their heads. Several other family and friends seated nearby had similar wordless reactions to Horan’s comment, to which he added, “I believe my client has learned something.”

“Kim and Mike have lost Logan,” said family friend Kathy Krometis after the court session had ended. “Six months of Charlie’s life is nothing compared to a lifetime without Logan.”

In a letter submitted to Ashwell after last week’s trial to ask that the “maximum penalty” be imposed, Krometis wrote that Climo “showed no remorse for what he has done. He purchased a brand new truck and totaled it in the early morning of Sunday, Feb. 4. [Climo was cited for reckless driving in that incident, but the charges were dismissed, the accident attributed to icy road conditions.]

“I have witnessed on many occasions Mr. Climo pulling out of the high school parking lot spinning wheels with the radio blasting,” she wrote. “I have witnessed him recklessly driving on Route 211. He has done nothing to make amends with the McKiernan family or change his reckless behavior.”

The prosecution’s case against Climo — which did not include, as some had expected, a more serious manslaughter charge — included testimony from Carol O’Neal, a toxicology expert from the Virginia state forensic lab, who extrapolated from the blood alcohol level of .03 taken several hours after the accident that Climo’s blood alcohol level would have been between .08 (the legally drunk mark) and .14 at the time of the accident.

“This case was complicated by the fact that the defendant was not arrested within three hours of the accident,” said Luke. Court records showed that State Police did not interview Climo, who had been taken to Fauquier Hospital, until after 6 a.m.

Other witnesses told the court that Climo was not drinking at the time of the accident.

Had Climo been an adult at the time of the accident, Luke said, the three class 1 misdemeanors of which he was convicted would have carried a maximum sentence of 36 months.

After posting bail yesterday, Climo signed a note of appeal. Horan said yesterday that any appeal — the signed note makes an appeal an option, though not a certainty — would most likely not include the two traffic charges but would include the others, including reckless driving. If the verdicts are appealed, the charges — except for the DUI, as Climo was acquitted of that charge — will be reheard in a new trial in Circuit Court, for which a jury can be requested.

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 539 Articles

Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.

14 Comments

  1. I was born and raised in Rappahannock and I remember a day when a car driven by an “Adult” and carrying four of my high school teenage friends crashed and two of those friends were killed. Alcohol was involved in that accident as my friends chose to ride with the adult because he could supply them with alcohol.

    I will never forget the horror and distress I heard when the Dunn and Freeman families were notified of the death of their sons and loved ones.

    The driver lost an arm in the crash and was sentenced to six years in prison.

    I am bringing this up because the one thing that I do not remember was that neither family nor the community fell apart over the crash, in fact the community was brought closer together.

    Yes it is irresponsible to drink and drive and very sad if a loved one or a friend’s life is taken away from us, but we have to remember that even as teens we make decisions that can affect the rest of our lives.

    The point I want to make is that everyone involved in that accident was a victim of poor decision making, the driver’s decision to drink and drive a car at over 120 MPH and my friends who chose to get in the car with him.

    As I read the letters concerning the recent tragedy I think that rather than bashing each other we should try to use this tragedy to teach our young teens how to be responsible and to look out for each other when faced with making decisions that can cause such hurt when things go wrong.

    As with my friends and the driver of that car, I am sure that all involved with this tragedy never thought that “IT COULD HAPPEN TO THEM”, unfortunately for the deceased they are not offered another chance at life like the survivors.

    I feel the pain for the lost loved one in this accident just as I felt the pain of my lost friends, however I always understood that it was not one individual that chose to have a good time that day at the expense of his friends, but a horrible accident caused by a group of people who all made a bad decision.

    In all the letters I read the one thing that I do not see is a willingness to forgive, we cannot judge the driver by how he acts as we do not know what pains he may be dealing with inside. Maybe we should extend a forgiving hand rather than demanding a hanging.

    Our efforts should be focusing on the real problem and that is teenagers, alcohol and cars are tragedies waiting to happen, so let’s do all we can to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. To this day I do not drink and drive nor will I knowingly ride in a car with anyine who has been drinking, and never as an adult have I condoned supplying alcohol to teenagers.

  2. Charlie’s Aunt from Texas

    The fatal car wreck on October 4th 2009 was an accident. It was a terrible accident which affected so many lives. A sixteen year old teenager lost his life and the lives of his two teenage friends were changed forever. The families are trying to deal with this tragedy and learn how to move forward in life.

    It is unconscionable for people to speculate and create rumors as to another person’s emotional state of mind, thoughts and actions.

    To set the record straight, my nephew never had any DUI charges or any other charges related to alcohol in Texas. He did not “total” his truck this past winter. The citation was dismissed due to icy road conditions.

    If the person listed as “Logan’s Friend” is truly a teen, you need to be educated as to what are opinions, what are facts, and what are false statements. Making false statements with the intent to harm another individual’s character/reputation whether in written or spoken form, is a huge no no. If the person listed as “Logan’s Friend” is an adult, you should know better.

    Your community needs to learn something from this accident. The article written in May (in this very newspaper) stated teen alcohol use in Rappahannock County is above the national average. It starts with the adults who are so very quick to blame and judge the teenagers.

  3. I think everyone on this board needs to take a step back and reflect . A tragic, life-changing situation that could have been any one of our families. A situation that the rest of us are not out of the dark just yet.

    As a Mother of teenagers, I can only simply imagine the toll this has taken on the McKiernan’s and I am sure their friends, families and all persons involved would do anything to take that night back but the truth of the matter is that you cannot “change” what has happened, What the Community needs to do is to come together and to learn from this, to find peace with this and above all else take this situation into your homes and discuss with your teens and remind them when they take that first step out the door that they are not invincible. I never had the pleasure of personally knowing the McKiernan’s or their beautiful son, all I have to go on are the wonderful things people have posted on other boards about him. I personally would not want Logan to be remembered as “The youth that died in Sperryville”.

    Things need to change, Parents need to change their way of thinking. There is no such thing as a “cool Parent” that mentality needs to be shut off, Bottom line is no one should allow their underage teen to drink. Don’t kid yourself that “supervised drinking is ok” it is NOT ok. There needs to be stiffer laws, Stiffer punishments towards the ADULTS that allow teens to consume, or have access to alcohol on their premises. Curfews need to be strictly enforced. That “law” needs to be enforced first at home. Personally I would like to see the age change for first time drivers. I think the age to drive needs to be increased to 18 and 21 for person/s that show irresponsibility. We as Parents have to be vigilant.

    I want to send my deepest sympathy to the McKiernan’s and tell you how sorry I am for your loss. The hard part now is for you to find some meaning to this, to allow forgiveness in your heart, cherish the wonderful memories of your son and the time god gave you to spend with him and know the hardest part for you in all this is to keep living.

    I also want to send my condolences to Charlie Climo and pray my child that you will be able to find some sense in all of this. That you forgive yourself, Understand that you have meaning and that you are a child of god and you will find your place in this world. You are loved. Start by mentoring tomorrows youth and tell them your story, Convince them that they are not invincible. Remind them that for every action there is a consequence.

    God Bless you all

  4. My daughter attended high school in Cypress, Texas with Charlie for 3 years. He is a very polite, respectful, young man.

  5. it is a horrible thing that happened to logan that night and i hate to see his family suffering so much… i dont know who this charlie boy is but if he is responsible for the death of logan then he needs to be a man and step up and take responsibility for his actions… … hes to young to be drinking anyway by the time he is 40 years old he is not gonna have a liver left has anyone told him that??… and i am positive matt is very sorry for the loss of his best friend logan those two were inseparable at times… but this is just a long lost friend of logans and i wunna let his family know im so sorry for their loss logan was a good guy and was the life of the world all the time we are all gonna miss him so much R.I.P LOGAN!!!!!!

  6. I have known Charlie since the day he was born. I have photos of him with his grandmother and I on his first day of school. I have photos of him throughout his whole life. He is by no means the terrible individual this hateful person known as Logan’s friend portrays.
    Lets face it these were three teenagers having a night on the town when a terrible accident occurred.
    In the testimony at the trial it was brought up that Charlie tried to avoid hitting a deer. I am sure from the writings of Logan’s friend he or she would have killed the deer. Charlie having a big heart for animals and life avoided such action.
    When this all happened, Charlie and his companions were three teenagers full of life. I watched my grandson throughout the trial handle himself with composure and showed great respect to the court. I was very proud in the manner in which Charlie stood up and respected the verdict of the judge. He made no comments or cried about his sentence, the little boy that his grandmother and I that saw off to his first day of school was now walking out of the courtroom as a man.
    Later his mother had to see him in a cell because it was too late to get him released. Again he comforted his mother and once again behaved like a man. This hateful friend of Logan is not helping Logan’s memory and he or she is not considering the feelings of Logan’s family or Charlie’s family.
    This hateful person is only inciting terrible feelings and attitudes around Rappahannock County. How does he or she know the remorse and pain that Charlie feels.
    Does this person know that right after the accident Charlie had a tattoo put on his back in memory of Logan. A tattoo that his grandfather was upset about. A tattoo that means Charlie will be carrying the memory of Logan and that terrible night on his back for the rest of his life.
    Hateful “so called” friend of Logan, put a muzzle on it. Let Logan’s family and Charlie’s family get over this terrible event with the help of the Lord, minus your sadistic remarks. Stop pouring salt on an open wound.

  7. I am not in any way defending the behavior of anyone that tragic night, but please be more sensitive to those in this community who have been affected by this. What purpose does it serve to make hateful and hurtful comments toward anyone? Does it help the family members and friends involved? I don’t think anyone can imagine the pain and suffering of another individual unless you have been in those particular shoes. I cannot and will not judge what another person is feeling or thinking or what that person felt at a particular time in the past. I do not have that right. If parents are honest we would realize that any one of us could be in this same situation and could be on either side. It doesn’t matter if your kid is a “good kid” or not, teens don’t realize the consequences of their behavior. That’s why we try to protect them whenever we can, but sometimes it’s just out of our control too. Bottom line is that Logan brought people together and I wish we could get that back.

  8. PS…”Charlie, Logan and Matt’s friend…if you read the article and paid attention to the details, “Logan’s Friend” grew up in Rapp…my family has only been here 6 years…again…please make sure you get your facts straight…too many people are getting hurt right now! We need to support the ones we love so everyone can heal!

  9. In response to “Charlie, Logan and Matt’s friend”….I did NOT write the above response! You are correct I DID receive a phone call at 2am but there were 2 other calls made around that time as well…I was just the one whom they chose to testify because I AM an adult! So please make sure you have your facts straight before you make slanderous and false remarks and accusations which are not true!

  10. It’s sad, that as a mother, all you can acknowledge about my comment is about the drinking, I am underage as well, however, I partied responsibly throughout high school, unlike your son. You couldn’t even comment on anything else that was said, because you know that my comment is a step closer to the truth, that you have tried so hard to protect your son from. One day you will realize that it will only benefit him to tell the truth, not hurt him.

  11. 1st off, if you did receive a phone call at 2 am that would make you a parent according to the court room hearing, bc the child at residence was “sleeping”. So that makes you an adult attending teenage parties. Charlie does feel horrible for what happen. And as for matt he got up there and told the truth, bc as far as I’m concerned he had nothing gain for saying what he said but everything to lose and for anybody to judge him, think of what kind of person you are?

  12. If this is a family newspaper that does not allow obscene or demeaning language, libelous statements and lies, why did you allow Logan’s friend to make such a comment? If the Law Enforcement people have read this comment from above, they really need to look into this person who attends parties with teen that allows drinking. I hear Rappahannock people do this alot out here. Those people pointing fingers need to remember, you have a few fingers pointing back at you. Just a thought.

  13. It’s sad that our legal system doesn’t seem to value human life. Charlie came here from Texas, bragging about his previous DUI charges that he had received in Texas, so he says. When he got behind the wheel of that truck that night, he knew that he was responsible for the lives of the two boys with him. He HAD been drinking, I received a call from Logan, at around 2 a.m. from the residence where the were drinking.

    Six months in jail is nothing, compared to the stress and suffering that Logan’s family and his close friends are enduring still to this day. And we will never know the real truth of what happened that night. And it blows me away that both Matt Fletcher and Charlie Climo still call themselves Logan’s friends. Michael McKiernan was Logan’s best friend, his world, and both boys looked him in the eyes and lied about what happened to his son that night. Out of respect, you would think Climo would tell the truth, let the McKiernans atleast lay their heads down at night knowing the truth about what happened to their son.

    If Logan were able to be here, he would spite the both of them for not being able to give his family and friends a sense of ease, just by telling the simple truth. Charlie WAS drinking that night, Charlie WAS speeding, hence the fact that some of the last words that came out of one of my best friend’s mouth were “Charlie, don’t play.” Logan will never get to see his little brother again, his mother, his father, his family. He will never get to pick up another football and play in a homecoming game. He never got to attend prom, he will never get to walk to get his diploma, never get to watch the love of his life walk down the aisle. Never get to sing along to Bob Marley with his dad ever again. This was not an accident, when you’re drinking and driving and you wreck a car, it is no longer an ACCIDENT — it is not the consequence of poor decisions and your own actions.

    It’s sad that Charlie had to “learn” by losing a “friend.” However, did he learn anything? He totaled a truck a few weeks after the initial “accident,” speeding. He still went to parties and drank, that I know for a fact, because I attended them. Our community lost an amazing, bright individual with so much potential — I believe that the amount of mourning that is still occurring proves that simple statement. Charlie’s losing six damn months of his live, however, he’s still breathing. We can’t say that for Logan. A mere six months traded for a whole lifetime of greatness and smiles in the presence of Logan McKiernan. That makes me ashamed to support our legal system. Makes me ashamed that their are people in this community too concerned with the six months Charlie is serving rather than the fact a 16-year-old boy is no longer living. That is so disappointing.

    I’ve always been so proud to tell people that I grew up in Rappahannock, but this situation and how it has been handled literally makes me sick. People need to stand up, and fight this, because we lost an amazing individual to a reckless person, who still can’t even admit that what he did was wrong. Still cannot look Logan’s parents in the eyes, say a simple “I’m so sorry” and mean it. Still can’t just tell the TRUTH. But that’s okay, because the truth will eventually set him free, and he’ll have God to deal with — until then he might be a prisoner in jail for a measly six months — but he’ll be a prisoner to himself for the rest of his life, until he at least attempts to right the wrongs he has inflicted on our entire community.

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