An Augusta County man has admitted to getting behind the wheel after smoking synthetic marijuana then killing a pedestrian.
Thursday afternoon, 22-year-old Stephen Joel Vance pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in Augusta County Circuit Court. He now faces up to 10 years behind bars.
The accident took place in October 2010, along Jefferson Highway in Fishersville. Eighty-one-year-old Lucille Wheeler was mowing her front yard when Vance ran off the road and struck her.
Just after the fatal accident, deputies asked Vance if he was intoxicated. Prosecutors say he freely told them he had been smoking "Spice." The synthetic marijuana was legal at the time, but driving under its influence was not.
Prosecutors said that soon after Vance's admission, Virginia State Police found packages of Spice and a smoking device in his truck.
Defense attorneys argued at an earlier hearing that the evidence should be inadmissible, since Vance was not under arrest and had not been read his rights.
Vance had faced an aggravated manslaughter charge, and was set for a jury trial on Monday. Now he awaits a sentencing hearing in January on involuntary manslaughter. Until then, Vance will remain free on bond.
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