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Mississippi man sentenced to 12 years in fatal crash

Eugene Butler Jr. will have no chance of early release. Photo: Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.

Eugene Butler Jr. will have no chance of early release. Photo: Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.

A man accused of killing a teenage girl in a June 2016 crash when he was operating a boat while intoxicated was sentenced this week in Hancock County, Miss.

Eugene Butler Jr., 47, was found guilty earlier this month of culpable negligence in the death of 19-year-old Vanessa Mauffray. On Monday, a judge sentenced Butler to 12 years in prison with no chance of early release, according to WLOX.com.

Vanessa Mauffray

Vanessa Mauffray

Mauffray’s sister, Victoria McKinley, spoke at the hearing: “[A]ll of our life plans were ended in that one moment. One moment created by someone’s bad decisions … bad decisions that would steal our happiness.”

McKinley also shared a statement from her mother: “[D]ay after day, my worst fears are relived again and again. I was not able to protect my child, and now I fear that it’ll happen again. I will always have that fear. Every time my phone rings, my heart stops because I’m waiting to hear something tragic has happened again. I relive the day Vanessa was taken every single day of my life. Her beautiful life that was just beginning. Nothing will ever be the same without Vanessa in it.”

Before handing down his sentence, Judge Larry Bourgeois said, “There are no winners here. On that bayou, two families were destroyed — there is no question. There is nothing I can do to bring her back. It was an accident brought on by culpable negligence — it was avoidable. It’s a somber day. Everyone involved has lost.”

Addressing Butler, Bourgeois acknowledged that Butler tried to help Vanessa Mauffray by calling 911, taking her to the dock and getting her aid. “However, her life was cut short, and it’s no one’s fault but yours. A bad thing happened because of your recklessness. This was a difficult case with horrendous consequences.”

Mauffray and her boyfriend, Ryan Necaise, were in a skiff setting crab traps on Bayou Caddy in Hancock County. Butler drove a 20-foot fishing boat into the skiff. Officials said Mauffray died hours later.

During the trial, Necaise recalled seeing Butler’s boat come around a bend on the wrong side of the waterway. As the boat got closer, Necaise reportedly saw that Butler was looking aft. By the time he turned around, it was too late to stop.

A jury had determined that Butler was negligently operating his boat. He was initially charged with boating under the influence and was indicted for manslaughter in 2017.

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