Local realtor and Ivy resident Andrew Middleditch, 55, was charged with felony involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence July 13, a charge stemming from a May 25 crash in which Lonnie Wycliffe Branham, 78, was killed on Barracks Road.
Middleditch previously had been charged with a DUI, his second. He was released from Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail May 28 on a $15,000 bond and on the condition he wear an alcohol-detecting bracelet.
The latest charge is a felony, and if the conduct of the defendant is so “gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life,” according to the statute, it bumps to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, which carries a mandatory one-year prison sentence and can go up to 20 years.
According to court documents, Middleditch was traveling east on Barracks Road around 8am at “a very low speed” and “abruptly” turned left into the path of Branham, who was passing in a legal passing zone. His blood alcohol content was .18, according to court records, more than twice the legal limit of .08.
Middleditch was convicted of driving under the influence in 2011, and with reckless driving in 2005.
His attorney, Fran Lawrence, says, “Mr. Middleditch grieves for Mr. Branham’s family’s loss. We believe, however, that the evidence will establish Mr. Middleditch was not at fault in any way and that this new charge cannot be proven.”
This is the second recent high-profile involuntary manslaughter case involving alcohol. On June 24, journalist and writer Donovan Webster was sentenced to two years in prison for the August 14, 2014, Afton Mountain crash on U.S. 250 that killed 75-year-old Waynesboro resident Wayne Thomas White Sr.
Middleditch is scheduled to appear in court September 24.