Cool Ridge man pleads guilty to fatal drunk driving

January 12 – A Cool Ridge man faces three to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty on Tuesday to killing a 23-year-old Hinton man while driving under the influence in April 2020.

Nicholas Farthing, 36, admitted to Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Darl Poling that he was intoxicated on April 13, 2020 and caused an accident on Interstate 64 near Beaver which resulted in killed Kenneth Isaiah Brown, an athlete from Summers County who worked for the PracticeLink company and was a writer for a varsity sports website.

Farthing pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death, a felony.

Raleigh District Attorney Ben Hatfield said the bar serving alcohol at Farthing was not believed to have been open on the day of the fatal accident as Gov. Jim Justice said all non-essential businesses would be closed due to the pandemic.

Despite the state’s mandate, Hatfield said, the bar was open.

“On April 13, 2020, Nicholas Farthing started tonight at a bar called Crash Zone,” he said. “This is important to note, because on April 13, 2020, the Crash Zone bar should not have been open.

“From my research, the bars were still in some form of closure,” he said, adding that security footage showed Crash Zone was open to “certain loyal customers”.

“On the night of April 13, 2020, one of those clients was Nicholas Farthing,” Hatfield told Poling.

Farthing was legally drunk when he left the bar, he admitted in court on Tuesday.

“After leaving the Crash Zone bar, he and his passenger, Russell Blumfield, decided to head east on Interstate 64,” Hatfield said.

Near Beaver, Hatfield said, Farthing crashed into Brown’s red Chevrolet Cruze.

Farthing was driving a 2019 Dodge Challenger.

Both vehicles caught fire in the accident.

“Members of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department have been dispatched to the scene,” Hatfield said. “An absolutely horrible scene is what they came up with.

“They came to vehicles engulfed in flames.”

The West Virginia State Police Police Lab reported that Farthing’s blood alcohol level (BAC) was 0.217, more than double the legal limit, Hatfield reported.

State Police investigators examined the Event Data Recorder (EDR), a box in newer car models that records technical information about the vehicle and occupants during an accident, about 20 seconds before and 20 seconds after an accident.

Hatfield said the Dodge’s EDR showed Farthing was driving at maximum acceleration of 164 mph and driving at 154 mph when he collided with the victim’s car.

Brown’s family members, seated with law enforcement officers, sobbed quietly as Hatfield reported the facts of the crash.

After Hatfield’s recitation, Farthing and his defense attorney, Brandon Gray, said they did not dispute the facts the prosecutor presented in court.

Poling asked Farthing to tell the court what happened, in his own words.

“I got out and had a few drinks, and I made the decision to drive and drive at such a speed and hit another man who unfortunately lost his life,” said Farthing.

Poling agreed to accept Farthing’s guilty plea and ordered that Farthing be placed in the custody of the State Department of Justice for a pre-sentence report to be completed and for observation. Farthing faces three to 15 years in prison.

Poling will review the PSR and the facts of the offense to arrive at a sentence. He has not yet set a date for sentencing.

Farthing did not come to an agreement with the state. Rather, he pleaded guilty to the state charge. It is likely that Gray will ask the court for a reduced sentence, but Hatfield said the state will seek the maximum sentence.

The prosecutor said after the hearing that the plea gave Brown’s family relief from having to stand trial.

Hatfield said the offense is not a parole-eligible offense, which means Farthing must serve the full sentence with no possibility of parole. Poling can, however, order Farthing to serve all or part of his sentence in house arrest rather than inside a prison.

Law enforcement officers sat with Brown’s family during the hearing and escorted them out of the courtroom after the hearing. Brown’s family have requested, through a law enforcement officer, that the media will not photograph or record them, and members of the media have honored the request.

Joshua B. Speller