By Debby Schamber – For the Record
Tyler Wayne Hodgkinson, 20, of Bridge City, who was involved in a fatal wreck in March 2015, accepted a plea bargain agreement and sentenced to five years probation and $1,000 fine in the 128th District Court with Judge Courtney Arkeen presiding.
According to Ashley Molfino, special prosecutor in the case, five years was the maximum sentence of probation he could have received. Taken into consideration was Hodgkinson’s age and the fact he did not have any prior criminal history.
The case began when around 4:45 a.m. police were called to State Highway 87 at M.L. King Drive where a collision had occurred. When officers arrived they found 43-year-old Bret Allen Gentzler, dead at the scene in a 2011 Chevrolet Aveo. During the investigation it was determined Hodgkinson, who was driving a 2009 GMC pickup truck and his passenger were underage and intoxicated.
Hodgkinson was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter. Bond was set at $50,000 and he was later released from the Orange County Jail.
Orange County District Attorney John Kimbrough requested a special prosecutor to handle the case due to extenuating circumstances. As a result, Molfino, of the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office was assigned to the case.
As part of the agreement, the case was reduced to the State Jail Felony of criminally negligent homicide. Hodgkinson will have to complete the terms of his probation such as report weekly to his probation officer, stay within Orange, Jefferson and Newton Counties, abstain from alcohol and drugs, submit to random urine tests and he cannot go to any bars or where alcohol is served. In addition, he must have a full time job or be enrolled in a full time college program. Futhermore, he is to do 100 hours community service, participate and complete individual counseling and participate in program such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving where he will speak to peers about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“The family of the victim are very forgiving,” Molfino said. “They agreed to this being imposed.”
Kathy Schexnaider-Bell, of MADD, said she is looking forward to working with the offender.
“I appreciate the D.A. considering MADD as a community partner with this young man due to the wreck involving drinking and driving and a death. I have worked with several young people that have killed that have been both good and bad for the probationer fulfilling his probation stipulations,” Bell said. “We as a society truly need to hold people responsible for their actions of underage drinking, drinking and driving and the consequences of those two choices.”