Man gets 10 years in Cherokee crash that killed Emerson mayor, wife

Al Pallone and his wife Camillia were killed in a four-vehicle crash in Cherokee County.

Credit: Cherokee County District Attorney's Office

Credit: Cherokee County District Attorney's Office

Al Pallone and his wife Camillia were killed in a four-vehicle crash in Cherokee County.

A man was sentenced to prison Monday in a 2022 Cherokee County crash that killed a metro Atlanta mayor and his wife, authorities said.

William Bryan Abernathy, 52, of Calhoun, entered a negotiated guilty plea to charges of first-degree vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving and driving under the influence. He was sentenced to 30 years, with the first 10 to be served in confinement, the Cherokee District Attorney’s Office announced.

“This tragedy could easily have been avoided had this defendant made the responsible decision to refrain from driving his vehicle that day. There is never a reason to put lives in danger by driving while intoxicated,” District Attorney Susan Treadaway said in a statement. “Our hope is that the sentence provides some closure to those who were injured and the families and friends who lost loved ones.”

The four-vehicle wreck happened on Knox Bridge Highway near Fields Landing Road on Dec. 10, 2022. Abernathy was found at fault after he lost control of his Chevrolet Silverado.

Emerson mayor Albert “Al” Pallone, 65, and his wife, 69-year-old Camillia, were killed. Al Pallone served the city for 23 years, first as a councilman and then as mayor for 15 years, City Manager Kevin McBurnett said at the time.

Abernathy admitted to drinking “a few beers” prior to the crash after Cherokee sheriff’s deputies smelled alcohol and noticed he struggled to maintain his balance, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Cyndi Crossland said. His blood-alcohol level was found to be .249 four hours after the crash. The legal limit in Georgia is .08.

According to officials, Abernathy was driving east on Knox Bridge Highway at 76 mph in a 55-mph zone. He lost control while going through a curve and struck a Hyundai Santa Fe, which the Pallones were driving. The Hyundai overturned in incoming traffic and was hit again by a GMC cargo van. Abernathy also struck a Mazda 3, causing both vehicles to come to a rest in a nearby ditch.

A dash camera in a vehicle not involved in the wreck captured the collision. Witnesses told deputies that Abernathy was “flying” down the road, zigzagging and trying to use the shoulder to pass cars, Crossland confirmed.

The Pallones died from blunt force trauma, and evidence showed that both were wearing their seatbelts and multiple airbags were deployed, according to authorities.

The driver of the Mazda suffered a broken tibia, fractured sternum, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. The driver of the GMC fractured his foot and had injuries to his hand. Both had to be extricated from their vehicles.

In addition to Abernathy’s prison and parole sentence, he was ordered to receive treatment for substance abuse, avoid using drugs and alcohol, engage in 120 hours of community service, complete a DUI program, pay fines and surrender his driver’s license.