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Sylacauga man sentenced to 26 years for murder in drunk driving - abc27 WHTM

Sylacauga man sentenced to 26 years for murder in drunk driving case

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Robert Charles Pate, III (Photo: Talladega County Sheriff's Office) Robert Charles Pate, III (Photo: Talladega County Sheriff's Office)
TALLADEGA, Ala. - A Sylacauga man involved in a deadly wreck while driving drunk will go to prison for murder.

Robert Charles Pate III, 53, pleaded guilty in April to the murder of 19-year-old Christin Leigh Thrash and assault of Thrash's mother, Tisha Pate.  The Pates are not related.

Thrash died November 16, 2012, in a wreck on Sylacauga Fayetteville Highway about one mile west of Sylacauga.  Thrash, her fiancé, their six-month-old daughter, and her younger brother were riding with Tisha Pate.  Robert Pate's car struck the family's SUV, causing it to flip.

"We saw him coming," Tisha Pate said.

"He was approaching from our right and [Christin] said 'Mama, look out,' and those were the last words I heard her say, were "Mama look out.'  And the next thing I know, he hit, and it caused us to flip and she was ejected out her window."

Thrash died on impact.  Tisha Pate said she blamed herself for her daughter's death.

"I was the driver that night, when he hit us.  In my heart of hearts, I blamed myself for not doing more to protect my daughter.  Even though I know there was nothing I could do," she said.

"But as a parent you feel like you're supposed to protect your kids.  I feel like I didn't protect her enough."

Tisha Pate suffered significant injuries and has not regained full function of her left hand.  She said doctors want to perform surgery, but she can't afford to do it because she has to take care of Thrash's daughter, Moriah, who turns two next month.

The family faced Robert Pate in court Tuesday afternoon.  The judge gave Tisha Pate the opportunity to speak, and she read a prepared statement.

"I just told him... how close my daughter and I were.  What relationship that we had, and what I missed," she said about her message to Robert Pate.

"She will never be able to be the mother she wanted to be to [Moriah].  She wanted to be a neonatal nurse,.  She'll never get that opportunity because he chose to get behind the wheel and drive drunk."

Investigators say Robert Pate's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when the wreck occurred at 5:40 p.m.  Judge William Hollingsworth III sentenced him to 26 years in prison.

Tisha Pate said she wishes the punishment were longer, but said it helps her close a chapter in the ordeal she went through.  She hopes others will learn from what happened and not make the same decisions as Robert Pate.

"Please think before you get behind the wheel drunk," she said.

"Think about what you would do if you hit somebody like myself and took a child from their mother, or a mother and a father from their kids."
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