A trucker who was high on crack cocaine, speeding and fighting with his girlfriend when he ran a red light and killed a Summerfield woman received a 14-year prison sentence Friday.
Orlando V. Luke, formerly of Augusta, Georgia, was found guilty by a jury last month of aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide in the 2016 death of Cheryl Culver.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida gave Luke the maximum sentence.
“The prosecutors, police and witnesses did an outstanding job,” said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. “This strong sentence from the court is absolutely justified and appreciated.”
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Luke was driving a semitrailer on U.S. 50 east of O’Fallon on Nov. 8, 2016, when he and his female passenger got into an argument. The woman jumped from the moving truck.
Other drivers called 911, but before police got to the scene, Luke had crashed his truck into a line of cars. Police later said that he was speeding when he crashed his semi into four cars. Culver, the driver of one of those cars, was killed.
In 1993, Luke led Georgia state troopers on a 50-mile high-speed chase that ended with Luke barricading himself in his car, smoking crack and pointing a gun at his head. The standoff ended with Luke shooting a state trooper.
He later told police that he was fleeing from an Uzi-armed hitman. Shooting the trooper was an accident, he claimed.
Georgia court records showed Luke was ticketed in 2003 for following too closely, hit and run, speeding and no insurance. He received supervision.
James Culver, Cheryl Culver’s son, filed a federal wrongful death suit against Luke and his trucking company, LF XPress Inc., based in Georgia. The complaint includes screenshots of tweets posted on Twitter from people who stated they were almost struck by Luke. A witness stated in court records that the light was red as Luke approached the intersection of Troy-O’Fallon Road. Cheryl Culver was in the intersection behind the wheel of her 2015 Ford Escape when Luke struck her head-on, the complaint stated.
James Culver was in a car in front of his mother when the crash occurred, the complaint stated.
One of the witnesses said it sounded “like and explosion went off in the intersection” when the vehicles collided.
James Culver and another witness, Dominic Brown, pried open Cheryl Culver’s door, according to the lawsuit. She was alive at the time, but died later that evening.
The lawsuit settled in May 2017 for an undisclosed amount.