Teacher found guilty of four misdemeanors in fatal wreck

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

COURTLAND—A former third-grade math teacher and Teacher of the Year at Meherrin Elementary School was found guilty Tuesday of four misdemeanor charges in connection with a September wreck that claimed the life of her 6-year-old son.

A substitute judge in Southampton’s General District Court pronounced Rebecca Duncan Whitehurst guilty of driving under the influence, possessing marijuana, failing to properly secure her son in his seat and failing to wear a seatbelt.

The judge also certified felony charges of manslaughter and child neglect to the county’s grand jury.

Whitehurst was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with her driver’s license suspended for a year, on the DUI charge. She was fined $50 for failing to restrain her child and $25 for failing to wear her own seatbelt. She was treated as a first offender for the marijuana charge, meaning that she would be required to complete 24 hours of community service and participate in the Community Corrections Program.

The judge withheld imposing the penalties subject to an expected appeal in Circuit Court. Attorneys set a tentative arraignment on the felony charges for Feb. 7, and the judge allowed Whitehurst to remain free on bond until then.

According to statements she made at the time, Whitehurst was driving her sport utility vehicle from her home to her boyfriend’s house at about 1 a.m. Sept 15, when she ran off of unpaved Darden Scout Road and landed in an adjacent field.

Police said the vehicle flipped several times before landing on its roof.

Her son, a first-grader at Meherrin Elementary, was not secured in his seat and was ejected from the vehicle.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.