Acworth man sentenced in 2018 crash that killed his girlfriend

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

A man will spend time in prison after pleading guilty to driving while drunk and causing the crash that killed his girlfriend in 2018.

Paul Allen Barnes, 28, of Acworth, was sentenced to five years behind bars and 15 years probation in connection with the April 13 crash that killed Jerry Nikkole Acklin, the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday in a news release.

According to prosecutors, Barnes was going about 70 miles per hour down Ga. 92 when he lost control of his Jeep Wrangler. Barnes and Acklin were thrown from the vehicle after it left the roadway and overturned near Byron Road, officials said.

When Cherokee deputies arrived at the intersection of Wade Green Road and Ga. 92 just before midnight, they found the couple near the wrecked Jeep. They were taken to a hospital, but Acklin died of her injuries six days after the incident, according to the sheriff’s office. She was 22 years old.

At the time, charges were not filed in the case pending the outcome of the toxicology reports from the GBI Crime Lab. More than three months passed before authorities arrested Barnes on first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI and other charges.

ExploreDriver charged months after wreck that killed girlfriend

Prosecutors said he admitted to authorities that he drank “several hours” prior to the crash and smoked marijuana earlier in the day. However, investigators determined Barnes was impaired at the time of the wreck, the DA’s office said. Authorities also found 37 grams of marijuana inside the damaged Jeep.

“On this fateful day, the defendant made a series of bad decisions. He smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and drove recklessly at high speeds, causing him to lose control of his vehicle,” deputy chief assistant DA Randall Ivey said. “Anger may have also played a factor since witnesses reported seeing the defendant argue with Ms. Acklin, then ‘burn rubber’ as he took off from a Kroger parking lot just moments before the accident.”

Barnes pleaded guilty Monday to reckless driving, driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and two counts of first-degree vehicular homicide.

“It is heartbreaking to see the pain of a grieving family, especially when this accident could have easily been avoided had the defendant exercised better judgement,” DA Shannon Wallace said. “While nothing can bring back this young woman to her family, hopefully this case will serve to remind people of the dangers associated with driving under the influence.”