Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Douglas L. Fleming, Jr. on Monday sentenced 21-year-old Zachary Frye to 12 years of active prison time for driving into and killing a pedestrian on Morrisonville Road in January 2019.
According to evidence in the case, a little before 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2019, Frye, then 19, was traveling about 60 mph eastbound on Morrisonville Road when he veered to the left side of the road and struck area resident Lauren McDarby while she was jogging, nearly in front of the Zion Lutheran Church where she attended. Frye’s car was discovered about 30-40 feet from the crash scene in the woods. He had been drinking. According to blood work performed by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science three hours after the incident, his blood alcohol concentration was at .218.
According to testimony from McDarby’s daughter, Colleen, her family was forced to cremate her mother because her body was so badly mangled.
Originally Frye was charged with driving while intoxicated and involuntary manslaughter, but a retired Arlington County General District Court judge in April 2019 agreed to amend the charge to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, which increased the penalty if convicted from 1-10 years in prison to 1-20 years in prison.
Fleming sentenced Frye to 12 months in prison for the DUI charge and 16 years in prison for the aggravated involuntary manslaughter charge, with five years of that time suspended for five years. Frye has already served close to a year and nine months of that time. Fleming also indefinitely revoked Frye’s right to apply for a Virginia driver’s license and ordered that he not consume alcohol during his five years of supervised probation once released when he is 31 years old.
According to a plea deal agreed to by the McDarby family, the maximum amount of time Frye could have spent behind bars was capped at 12 years. Fleming explained that he chose to exceed the state’s sentencing guidelines because of the profound negative impact on the McDarby family and because of the circumstances surrounding the crash—Frye’s blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit and he was traveling about 25 mph above the speed limit on the winding, rural road.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, seven people gave victim impact statements, including McDarby’s husband and two daughters, a prison minister who frequently met with Frye during his incarceration at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center, and Frye’s father.
McDarby’s older daughter, Elizabeth Martin, said she missed her mother when she was married at the Zion Lutheran Church three months after her mother was killed just across the road.
“That was one of the hardest things of my life,” she said. “I hope the image of what happened to my mother haunts [Frye] for the rest of his life.”
McDarby’s husband, David, said it’s now difficult to go to church because he has to pass by the site where his wife was killed. He said his wife had retired just six months prior to the crash and that three weeks before her death, he had closed on a property where he intended to build Lauren her retirement home.
Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen, who represented the prosecution during the hearing, argued that Frye’s case was “the poster trial for aggravated involuntary manslaughter.”
“[Lauren McDarby] had a life that was just beginning … in retirement,” he said. “That has all been taken away by a senseless and willful act.”
Olsen argued that Frye would eventually be released from prison and that he would have the chance to build a life for himself at that point. “It is not the end of the world for Mr. Frye as it was … for the McDarby family,” he said.
On the other end of the argument came testimony from Aaron Beaule, a prison ministry volunteer at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center who has been meeting with Frye since early 2019.
Beaule said Frye “is a rare individual who has never shifted blame” and that he is “someone you’ll want to have in society,” because he’ll be able to use his story to prevent others from making the same mistake.
“He has owned his horrific and tragic mistake,” he said.
Joshua Cagney, the chief operating officer of New Paradigm Recovery and someone who spent eight years in prison for killing a passenger when driving drunk in November 2003, argued that the Virginia Department of Corrections was not the place for Frye, since there would be few services in prison to help him recover.
Frye’s father, Robert, said his son was charismatic, affectionate and the gentlest of his three children. A 25-year family friend of the Frye’s said Zachary was “a good kid” who had a kind heart and was “very affectionate.”
Frye’s defense counsel, Alex Levay, echoed those sentiments, noting that Frye “is a really good person” who “will forever be haunted and ashamed.”
Levey asked Fleming to take into consideration Frye’s fall 2018 diagnosis of depression and his still-developing teenage brain. Levay also mentioned that Frye never once asked him to file a bond motion in hopes of being released from jail, and urged Fleming to have compassion and empathy and to “let [Frye] out into society” because of the potential, he said, Frye has to help others in similar situations.
“A person like Zachary will never drink and drive again, period,” he said.
Fleming ultimately said the case was “unspeakably tragic” and that Frye wasn’t being sentenced for his good qualities, but for his actions on Jan. 4, 2019.
“Mr. Frye chose to drive after choosing to consume way too much alcohol,” he said.
Before being sentenced, Frye apologized to the McDarby family. He said he was not worried about how long he would be sentenced to spend behind bars because he took full responsibility for his actions.
“It is my fault that Mrs. McDarby is no longer here today. … She didn’t deserve it,” he said. “I will never forget what I’ve done. … I promise I will not run from this.”
Following the crash nearly 21 months ago, dozens of Morrisonville residents formed the Morrisonville Community Alliance to address traffic and pedestrian safety concerns along the rural road—a road in which area residents frequently walk or jog along and children and pets play in.
Most notably, the residents requested VDOT decrease the 25 and 35 mph speed limits and convert the Morrisonville/Purcellville Road intersection into a three-way stop.