Victims of DUI tragedy call for tougher state laws

Victims of DUI tragedy call for tougher state laws (Image 1)

James Barrett and his four-year-old grandson Alton “Brant” Barrett were headed to a Wilson County park in late July of last year, but they never made it.

A drunk driver with a long history struck and killed them on a Lebanon street.

Earlier this month at the Wilson County Justice Center just a few hundred feet from the deadly accident site, Barbara Mayfield was sentenced to 50 years in prison on various counts stemming from the crash, including 23 years for two vehicular homicides.

During a tearful 10-minutes on the witness stand for her sentencing, Mayfield looked directly at the victims' family telling them, “I am so sorry, I did not mean to hurt nobody.”

Authorities said Mayfield had been in Wilson County court before on drunk driving charges and even once served time.

She was out on bond on a prior drunk driving charge when she struck and killed the little boy and his grandfather.

She again was driving drunk.

“I forgive her, but I won't ever forget,” said Salesa Barrett, who lost her father and nephew. “She destroyed our family.”

The Barrett family, like so many others, continues to ask the question what could have been done to avoid such a tragedy.

“There needs to be tougher laws. I do know that,” Salesa told Nashville's News 2.

Lebanon Police Chief Scotty Bowen's officers investigated Mayfield's DUI cases.

He said he has faced the questions from grieving families who lost loved ones to drunk drivers.    

“You can't lock everybody up, there is not just enough room in our jail,” said Bowen who cautioned there are no easy answers.

“If someone who is drunk really wants to drive, they unfortunately often find a way,” the chief added with a shake of his head.

Bowen's police officers not only responded that July day last year to the DUI tragedy, but they had arrested Mayfield several times the previous year before the fatal accident.

The police chief spoke of harsh realities that almost all DUI offenders can make bond.

“If you put someone who is pending trial for a DUI in jail, then are you going to let a violent felon or a child molester, someone like that out?” asked the chief, adding, “Unfortunately when tragedies like this happen, we want to point fingers at the system, we want to point fingers at police or prosecutors.”

Bowen said he is not giving up hope for at least stopping some drunk drivers.

He said he hopes the courts look at devices similar to GPS ankle bracelets worn by parolees.  

“They are bracelets that will go on and notify monitors that the [subject]  is actually drinking,” Bowen explained. “I think we have to look at that.”

Nashville's News 2 has learned that lawmakers are once again likely to look at further changes to the state's DUI laws when they meet in January.

The group representing District Attorneys in Tennessee this fall is writing a lengthy proposal to make some changes.
The DA's have not yet publicly released their proposal.

Some think Mayfield's words on the day she was sentenced may go a long way as a deterrent.

She has to live with knowing that she killed two people.

“I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself, and I don't think I ever will,” said Mayfield.

Mayfield could be eligible for parole in 17 years.

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