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White Oak man gets two 8-year sentences in fatal 2010 wreck

By Glenn Evans
Sept. 30, 2013 at 11 p.m.


A man who was facing a felony DWI charge when he crashed into a couple, killing the husband, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and aggravated assault arising from the February 2010 wreck.

The two, eight-year terms handed to Benjamin Chase Capps, 31, will run at the same time - and at the same time as the 20-year sentence he is now serving for the unrelated driving while intoxicated conviction.

"I'm not satisfied with it at all," Marshall Pitner, brother of the late John Frank Pitner, said after District Judge David Brabham accepted Capps' twin guilty pleas. "(Prosecutors) thought it was the best (they could get)."

Capps, of White Oak, faced from two to 20 years in prison for each of the two charges, plus fines of up to $10,000.

Pitner said prosecutors told him the case was complicated by potential difficulty in proving Capps was under the influence of prescription drugs when he crossed a median and struck a vehicle Pitner and his wife, Barbara, were driving. The couple had been en route from their home in Lindale to visit Marshall Pitner in Longview.

"I don't see any way the guy could go completely off the road and slam into something," Marshall Pitner said after the sentencing hearing Monday. "He shouldn't have been out driving to start with. ... And I blame a lot of it, sometimes, on our judicial department. Too many times he'd been let go with a slap on the hand."

Capps was represented by court-appointed attorney Kevin Settle.

Since 1999, Gregg County online records show, he has been found guilty of a succession of felonies including vehicle burglary, theft, assault and DWI-third or greater. He still has at least one drug possession charge pending.

After the sentencing Monday, Pitner daughter Sharon Brown said she believed her mother's sentence was more severe than Capps'.

Barbara Pitner walks with difficulty and remains in therapy for injuries that included multiple broken bones and punctured lungs.

"He took away her independence," Brown said. "She can no longer afford her place. ... A lot of people need to understand, this gentleman had no driver's license, he had no insurance."

Barbara Pitner expressed relief to have turned a corner in a difficult recovery period.

"He couldn't get long enough (behind bars) to make me happy," she said. "But at least he won't kill anybody else for eight years. God'll take care of the rest, so I'm going to be happy with this. ... We'd just started out on a Saturday afternoon to have a ... dinner and visit with family. And we were going to a special place, but anyway it'll never be the same. And I'll never be the same. I'll just have to do the best I can until the Lord calls me home."

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