A Roanoke County woman who previously served prison time in the 2008 alcohol-related traffic death of a Vinton construction worker was arrested Tuesday in Roanoke on a charge of driving under the influence.
Court records show Tracie Dowell Nininger, 48, returned a 0.25 percent blood-alcohol level, more than three times the legal limit for adult drivers in Virginia.
Nininger and co-defendant Jeffrey Dupree were found guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and DUI in October 2008 after the pair were found culpable in a chain reaction crash that killed 46-year-old Richard Slone in a construction zone along Electric Road near Tanglewood Mall earlier that year.
An arrest warrant filed Tuesday in Roanoke General District Court says a Roanoke officer was dispatched before 5:40 p.m. for a report of a red BMW driving recklessly on Brambleton Avenue Southwest. The officer found the vehicle, saw it cross the road’s double yellow lines and watched it nearly hit another vehicle head-on, according to the warrant.
The officer said Nininger had a strong smell of alcohol when she was pulled over at the intersection of Brambleton Avenue and Ross Road, and wrote that Nininger fell when she attempted to get out of the vehicle.
Nininger wasn’t able to complete a preliminary breath test at the scene, according to her arrest warrant, but she was later tested again after being arrested.
She requested a court-appointed attorney in court paperwork and was ordered held without bond.
Nininger was sentenced in the 2008 fatal crash to two and a half years of prison time, with an additional six and a half years suspended. She remains on seven years’ probation today.
Police said Nininger had a blood-alcohol content of 0.19 percent shortly after the February 2008 crash. Court records indicate her driver’s license was suspended indefinitely after her conviction but was restored in November 2013.
Roanoke County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Holohan said Wednesday that his office was aware of the new charge and would seek to have Nininger’s suspended sentence revoked if she’s found guilty. A judge would then decide how much of the sentence, if any, she would be required to serve.
Nininger and Dupree were allowed to remain out of jail on bond for much of the time they pursued failed appeals through the state court of appeals, and later to the Virginia Supreme Court. The appeals court said the pair’s behavior was “gross, wanton and culpable” and that their sentences were appropriate.
Nininger ultimately was imprisoned until April 2012 after the pair’s appeals were exhausted.
She had been ordered to remain drug and alcohol free while previously out on bond and was to submit to daily testing. She served jail time briefly in 2011 after failing two breath tests within three months.
In the first of those tests, Nininger told a Roanoke County judge that she had inadvertently taken some of her mother’s cough medicine the night before and didn’t know it was 10 percent alcohol.
Nininger and Dupree were ordered to pay each of Slone’s two children $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages after a five-day civil trial in Roanoke County Circuit Court last year.
After realizing that Nininger’s and Dupree’s insurance coverage was insufficient to back the liability, Slone’s sister sued for underinsured-motorist coverage from the owner of the dump truck her brother had operated earlier that night. At the time of the wreck, he was standing near the vehicle.
A Roanoke County judge found in April, however, that Slone was not using any company vehicles when he died — at least not in the eyes of the law — and thus wasn’t entitled to the business’ insurance.
The case has been appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will hear it.