Hours after saying “I do,” newlyweds Ryan and Kali Quinton headed to the home they had purchased a few months earlier to change clothes for their honeymoon in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Family members said the couple had never seemed happier. They would all gather again five days later, on Jan. 3, at 25-year-old Kali’s funeral. The chipper orthodontic assistant who loved to sing died in her wedding gown, killed when her husband’s Pontiac Firebird overturned on Ga. 5 in Cherokee County.
The Georgia State Patrol, which alleges Quinton was drunk at the time of the accident, took out warrants Monday for his arrest. Quinton, who troopers said registered a blood alcohol content of 0.114 , well above the legal threshold, turned himself in Wednesday morning to Cherokee County deputies and was released hours later on $25,000 bond.
He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on charges of first-degree vehicular homicide, reckless driving and laying drag (causing a vehicle to move in a zigzag or circular course or to gyrate or spin around).
Perhaps the only solace for the 28-year-old Pickens County native comes from the support of his family, including his in-laws.
“God called (Kali) home,” said Kali’s older sister, Kelly Weaver. “He’s our family now. He’s my brother. We don’t blame him for what happened.”
“I wasn’t in the car. I don’t know what happened,” she said.
Quinton told investigators he swerved to avoid a dog and lost control of the vehicle, which rolled down an embankment. Kali, pinned under the Firebird, was pronounced dead on the scene.
A passerby saw Ryan Quinton stumbling along the side of the road, his face covered in blood.
“There was nothing that could be done. The car was on top of her. You couldn’t even see her,” Chris Thomas told a reporter. As they waited for an ambulance to arrive, the two men prayed.
Weaver said Quinton, a burly outdoorsman who loves to hunt and fish, did not appear intoxicated as she and the rest of the family saw the couple off from their reception at the historic Wheeler House in Ball Ground.
“It was a celebration. There were toasts,” Weaver said.
The blank expression in Quinton’s mug shot reveals much about his state of mind: He’s devastated, struggling to cope with the loss of his soulmate, Weaver said.
“They were so much alike,” she said of her sister and brother-in-law. The two grew up in Jasper, a town of just under 3,700 residents.
“It’s a small town; everybody knows everybody,” Weaver said. “We’ve known Ryan practically all his life.”
She said the family has been hurt by the vitriol directed at Quinton by those who’ve read news accounts of the tragedy.
“There’s so much hate out there,” Weaver said. “They don’t know a thing about (Kali and Ryan).”
Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace expressed sympathy for the family but said the facts of the case must outweigh the tragic circumstances.
“It’s not uncommon for families of the victims to not want to press charges, but it’s not up to them,” she said. “This is a public safety issue.”
In a statement Thursday, Quinton’s attorneys, Ross Grisham and Scott Poole, said the charges “only compound the anguish he has already experienced in dealing with the loss of his wife.”
“The families have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they have received throughout this ordeal and ask that you continue to keep them in your thoughts,” the statement read.
Weaver said Kali’s family will continue to support Quinton, whom she described as a doting uncle to her children.
“There’s not a better person than Ryan,” she said.