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Decatur driver in fatal DUI crash now faces probation or up to 12 years in prison

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Sidney Flinn

Sidney Flinn

DECATUR — Sidney J. Flinn is now looking at a sentence ranging from probation to 12 years in prison for driving drunk and crashing into his girlfriend at more than 55 mph as she walked along a rural road, inflicting fatal injuries.

Flinn, 28, appeared in Macon County Circuit Court Thursday pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol causing death. The plea was part of a plea deal negotiated by his attorney, Philip Tibbs, which capped the maximum prison time at 12 years instead of the usual 14 year maximum for the Class 2 felony.

A charge of reckless homicide and three additional counts of aggravated DUI were also dismissed as part of the deal.

After a brief conference with Tibbs and Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Elizabeth Pfhol, Judge Thomas Griffith said he was willing to go along with the penalty range negotiated between the defense and prosecution.

Griffith told Flinn he was eligible for probation or conditional discharge at the other end of the sentencing scale, but that depends on the judge finding “extraordinary circumstances” to decide that was an appropriate punishment.

“You understand there is a pretty wide range there, Mr. Flinn?” asked Griffith, referring to the broad scope of penalties he now faced.

“Yes, your honor,” Flinn replied.

He remains free on bond and a sentencing date was set for Feb. 19.

Outlining the circumstances of the case, Pfhol said Flinn and his girlfriend, Brittany M. Shelton, 23, had both been drinking on the night of Feb. 15. They started at a bar in Decatur and then continued drinking with friends at a house on Greenhill Road. The couple had got into an argument in the early hours of Feb. 16 and Shelton left on foot, and then Flinn had also left.

The timing of their departures remains a mystery. Decatur Police accident reconstruction expert, Craig Lundy, who spoke at Shelton’s inquest in March, believed both had left at roughly the same time. But Shelton, who had been struck and killed in the 3500 block of Greenhill Road at 2:30 a.m. Feb. 16, was half a mile from the house where she had been drinking; Flinn was driving a large pickup truck estimated to be traveling at between 55 mph and 60 mph.

Inquest jurors, who ruled the death a homicide, had wondered how Shelton had gotten half a mile in front of Flinn if their departures occurred at the same time.

Lundy said police could not establish a precise timeline because the witnesses providing information had all been “drinking shots” and had fuzzy recollections. He also had said police just didn’t have enough information to reconstruct precisely what happened after the couple left the house.

A vehicle examination showed Flinn had hit the brakes “a few 10ths of a second” before the fatal impact. Lundy said Flinn had then called friends and his father — who called police — but Flinn hadn’t called police himself until 20 minutes after the collision and had driven away from the accident scene.

Pfhol, speaking at Thursday’s hearing, said Shelton “died on impact” from the massive injuries inflicted on her body. “Approximately more than two hours after striking Brittany, the defendant gave a breath test that showed his breath alcohol content at that time was .091,” Pfhol added. That put Flinn at more than the legal limit for driving.

2019 mug shots from the Herald & Review 

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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