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WEST CHESTER — A Louisiana man who collided with a car in rural Warwick while he was high on heroin, killing a passenger in the car, was sentenced to state prison for the drug-related homicide.

But before the judge presiding over his case could pronounce the sentence, which had been agreed to by the prosecution and defense, Robbie Wharton IV listened for almost 30 minutes as family members and friends of the deceased spoke of his generous and loving personality.

“His heart was too big for his body,” said Lance Braswell of his cousin, the late Dominic “Dom” David Jennings, who was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash 18 months ago. “Dom was the light of all of us. He touched a lot of people.”

Wharton, 27, of St. Amant, La., pleaded guilty to charges of homicide by vehicle while DUI, accidents involving death or injury, and recklessly endangering another person as part of the agreement between the prosecution, led by Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei, and his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Chelsea Lynn Holland.

The agreement called for a sentence of four to 12 years incarceration, prison time that Judge Patrick Carmody imposed after an emotional hearing at which the judge was shown photographs of Jennings, a skilled singer and gifted musician from Coatesville, and his family members — from a 100-year-old aunt to a 16-year-old younger brother.

Those who spoke to the judge about the impact Jennings’ death had had on them told of the “hole” in their lives created by his loss. And while some spoke of the forgiveness they would extend to Wharton, others stressed how much pain his recklessness in driving after snorting heroin had caused them.

“We shouldn’t be here,” said Ronald Jennings, the victim’s father. “He was only 27 years old. Life ain’t even beginning at 27 years old.”

Carmody said he was impressed by the forgiveness the family spoke of while reserving harsh criticism for Wharton’s behavior.

“Being an addict is no excuse for this type of crime,” the judge said, looking at Wharton, who has been held in Chester County Prison since his arrest in 2019. “Addictions don't put you behind the wheel of a car. I have no sympathy for that. It is a choice you made to put your own selfish behavior before anyone else.”

According to Frei and a criminal complaint filed by state Trooper Brian Kundick, who investigated the crash, Wharton was driving a Chevrolet Camaro on Ridge Road in Warwick around 3:20 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2019, when he was seen driving erratically by another motorist, who called 9-1-1.

The motorist said that the Camaro was swerving in and out of the eastbound lane of traffic on the road, striking parked cars and the guardrail. As it continued on without stopping, the Camaro subsequently crossed the center line of traffic and collided head-on with a Nissan Altima driving in the opposite direction.

Jennings, a graduate of Coatesville Area Senior High who worked at the Wal-Mart in West Sadsbury, was killed instantly. The driver, his friend Veronica Torres, suffered a fractured collar bone.

When emergency personnel from Medic 93 of Brandywine Hospital responded t the scene, they found Wharton incoherent and displaying contracted pupils, an indication of opioid use, said Frei. He was given a dose of the anti-overdose drug Narcan and regained consciousness after seeming to nod off.

At some point, he told one of the EMTs he had snorted heroin earlier that day. A test of his blood found traces of fentanyl and a horse tranquilizer, Xylazine, used to cut heroin with, said the prosecutor, who handled the case with Assistant District Attorneys Zach Yurick and Jessica Acito.

Given a chance to speak at the proceeding, Wharton expressed remorse. “There is no excuse for my actions that day,” he told those in the. courtroom. “This I the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I am so, so sorry for the pain I have caused you.”

The photos of Jennings were shown to Carmody by his mother, Monique Artis, who could only choke back tears of grief as she displayed them one by one. “I miss him every day,” she said.

After Carmody took a minute to view the photographs himself, he handed them to Frei and instructed her to show them to Wharton.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

To contact Staff Writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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