CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – The driver charged with killing a father driving home from his second job was in court Monday. Matthew Pernell, 27, of Emporia, pleaded guilty to aggravated involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence.
The early-morning fatal crash killed Alonza Jefferson -- a Chesterfield father of two --just days after Christmas in 2016. Jefferson was on his way home to celebrate his daughter’s birthday the next day.
An Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney informed Judge TJ Hauler that Jefferson was on his way home from his second job last December on Route 288 when Pernell's southbound pick-up truck swerved across the grass median and slammed into Jefferson's Cadillac. Jefferson sustained multiple injuries that were determined fatal on the scene. He was 46.
This was Pernell’s third offense. A check of court records showed Pernell faced more than a dozen traffic charges since 2008, including two DUI convictions – one in 2010, another in 2013.
In court Monday afternoon, evidence was released that determined Pernell was almost three times the legal limit for driving under the influence.
It was a tough day in court for the Jefferson family, who had never previously heard all the details of Alonza’s death.
The family said even though a sentence was issued, it didn't ease the pain felt by their loss.
"I'm definitely glad that things are moving along and we do have a sentencing date now,” said Destani Huffman-Jefferson, Alonza’s daughter. “Obviously, it is so extremely emotional and heartbreaking, especially to hear all the details and evidence that was presented today."
Pernell faces up to 25 years behind bars in prison. The judge set a sentencing date at 9 a.m. on Sept. 25.
"Really no punishment, no time in jail is going to bring my dad back," Destani said, "but I definitely don't want to see this go swept under the rug. He deserves the time and the punishment because it's not okay, it's not acceptable."
While the records show that this was Pernell's third DUI in 10 years, sources say he had a DUI in 2010 that was later downgraded to a reckless driving charge.