Man sentenced to 10 years in 2002 wreck that left one dead

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A Carter County man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to an August 2002 car accident that left one woman dead and two children injured.
   Judge Lynn Brown sentenced Joshua David Whitehead, 25, 227 Centerview Dr., who had pleaded guilty to charges of vehicular homicide, simple possession of a schedule IV drug and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle in connection with an accident that resulted in the death of 35-year-old Teresa A. Sims, 111 Joe Wilson Road.
   Sims died at the Johnson City Medical Center on August 29, 2002, as a result of injuries she sustained in a two-vehicle accident on West Elk Avenue the day before.
   The accident occurred on Aug. 28, 2002, at approximately 9 p.m. on West Elk Avenue in front of the Inland Containers facility, Elizabethton Police Department Ptl. Michael Merritt told the Elizabethton Star in March 2003. "Mr. Whitehead was driving a Jeep Cherokee traveling north on West Elk Avenue. He left those northbound lanes, crossed the center line and struck a vehicle that was traveling south on that same highway," Merritt said.
   The other vehicle was an Oldsmobile Silhouette van driven by Sims, whose two young sons were also in the car with her. Hutch Sims, who was four years old at the time, was seriously injured in the accident and was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings Air Rescue.
   Hutch sustained two broken legs and a serious head injury in the accident. His brother, then 11-year-old Michael, sustained minor injuries and was treated at Sycamore Shoals Hospital. Mrs. Sims was also transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings Air Rescue. "Mrs. Sims died in the early morning of Aug. 29 at the Medical Center," Merritt said.
   Sims also had a daughter, April, a student at Hampton High School, who was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
   According to Merritt, Whitehead appeared to be under the influence of some type of medication at the time of the crash. Police reportedly found alprazolam, another name for xanax, which is a schedule IV drug, in Whitehead's vehicle. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation analysis of a blood sample taken from Whitehead at the time of the accident found traces of methadone and diazepam, another name for valium, in his system.
   Last year, General Sessions Court Judge John Walton revoked Whitehead's bond in the case when he failed to show up for a court appearance because he had been arrested in Unicoi County on a DUI charge just a few hours before he was supposed to be in court.
   A police report from the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department states that Whitehead was arrested at approximately 11 a.m. on March 18, 2003 at a gas station on Temple Hill Road and charged with second offense DUI, reckless driving, possession of Schedule II narcotics, possession of a legend drug, violation of the implied consent law and violation of the vehicle registration law. According to the report, Whitehead advised the officer that he had just come from a methadone clinic in Asheville, North Carolina.