KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The driver of a tractor-trailer that fatally struck Loudon County Sgt. Chris Jenkins while he was trying to remove a ladder from a roadway last year pleaded guilty to multiple charges on Wednesday.
Christopher Savannah, 43, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after agreeing to plead guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, two counts of felony reckless endangerment, and multiple commercial carrier violations.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Russell Johnson said in a press release that the plea offer was made at the request of Chris Jenkins’ son, LCSO Narcotics Detective Clay Jenkins and confirmed with family members who, “are glad to have a resolution to this case and are now able to put this behind them to relieve them of the stress and emotion of a jury trial.”
On Feb. 3, 2022, Jenkins was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer while moving a ladder off of northbound Interstate 75 near mile marker 74. Jenkins implemented a rolling roadblock to stop traffic in two lanes while he attempted to retrieve the ladder. Savannah did not stop his tractor-trailer, striking Jenkins as he exited his vehicle along with two other vehicles.
Savannah admitted to smoking marijuana before and while driving. Field sobriety tests and a blood sample determined he was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation in the wake of Jenkins’ death that increased the mandatory service time in vehicular homicide cases to 100%, or 85% with good behavior.
A bill called The Sergeant Chris Jenkins Law was also passed making it a Class A misdemeanor to leave ladders unsecured in the back of a pickup truck or trailer. A second driver, Sonny Beason, was charged for failing to secure the ladder that fell into the roadway. He pled guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment and one count of driving on a suspended license on August 23, 2022.
Jenkins first joined the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 as a corrections officer. He was promoted to patrol in 2003 and became a K-9 handler in 2007. Jenkins earned Patrol Supervisor of the Year in 2017. He was promoted to corporal in 2018 and promoted again in 2019 to sergeant.