Sailor Earl Decarlos Smith sentenced to 11 years for driving drunk, killing Valley Center couple

Couple struck while walking down Old Castle Road

VISTA, Calif. - A Navy sailor who drove while drunk and fatally struck a couple in their late 70s as they were taking their daily walk north of Valley Center was sentenced Wednesday to 11 years in prison.

Earl Decarlos Smith Jr., 21, pleaded guilty in October to gross vehicular manslaughter.

He was driving east on Old Castle Road about 6:15 a.m. July 7 when his 2011 Toyota Corolla drifted to the right and struck the retired schoolteachers as they walked with their backs to traffic near Mauka Drive, according to the California Highway Patrol. Both victims died at the scene.

Neighbors said the victims -- 79-year-old Carl Henry Ackermann and his 78-year-old wife, Eunice -- had been taking a daily stroll down Old Castle Road for 30 years.

Smith's blood-alcohol content was 0.12 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent for driving, according to Deputy District Attorney Christy Bowles.

Bowles said the defendant was going 75 mph in a 55 mph zone and was distracted by his cellphone GPS when the crash occurred on the two-lane road, close to the Ackermanns' home.

Smith told authorities he had been drinking in Fallbrook the night before the crash. He said he got lost on the way back to the freeway and ended up in Valley Center.

Judge Michael Kirkman noted the loss to the community as he passed sentence.

"The Ackermans gave much to the community; this indeed is a big loss and of course, they've been deprived of their golden years," said Kirkman.

Defense attorney Jerrold Bodow told reporters that Smith was crushed by what he'd done and wanted to give a warning to others.  

"He's spending the rest of his 20s in prison and two people died because of this and he wants to make a warning to all who'd make that mistake, especially this holiday season," said Bodow.

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