Woman sentenced in death of former MHS coach

Published 4:17 pm Monday, November 26, 2012

By EMILY ETHEREDGE / The Clanton Advertiser

CLANTON – A 48-year-old Clanton woman on Nov. 19 was sentenced to 14 years in prison for manslaughter involving a vehicular homicide that killed former Montevallo High School and Calera High School coach Richard Gilliam on April 3, 2010.

Lona Mitchell was sentenced by Judge Sibley Reynolds for the death of Gilliam, 71, of Clanton.

Mitchell and Gilliam were both driving on Kincheon Road in Clanton at 3:30 p.m. April 3, when Mitchell crossed over into Gilliam’s lane of traffic resulting in the crash.

Gilliam, who was heading back home after leaving West End Baptist Church in preparation for Easter Sunday, was pronounced dead on the scene, and Mitchell, who was heading to downtown Clanton, was transported to UAB.

Toxicology reports showed Mitchell was under the influence of prescription and non-prescription drugs at the time of the incident, according to Assistant District Attorney Brandon Bates of the 19th Judicial Circuit of Alabama.

“Both substances, with their combined effect, resulted in Mitchell not being able to control her car,” Bates told the Clanton Advertiser.

Bates said Mitchell was indicted in July 2010 by a grand jury on the charge of manslaughter and pleaded guilty to the charge in May 2011.

Bates said Mitchell was sentenced to 173 months in prison by Reynolds, the maximum number of months under the guidelines of the class B felony of manslaughter.

Mitchell’s court appointed defense attorney could not be reached for comment by press time.

Mitchell was taken into custody Nov. 19, and will be in the Chilton County Jail until she is taken to the state penitentiary.

The Montevallo High football field was named the Coach Richard Gilliam field three years ago.

“That is how much of an impact he had on all students and athletes here in Montevallo from 1972-1993,” said Tena Niven, MHS’ volleyball and girls basketball coach, who played for Gilliam. “Coach Gilliam was one of the most respected coaches to coach at Montevallo, and his influence even spread into the Calera community.”