Rountree sentenced to prison for negligent homicide after accident near Hopper tunnel

Jonathan Alexander Rountree
Jonathan Alexander Rountree

FAYETTEVILLE -- A Dallas man was sentenced to prison Tuesday for causing the death of another motorist while driving drunk early this year, according to prosecutors.

Jonathan Alexander Rountree, 23, of Dallas, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide while intoxicated and battery in the second degree, both felonies.

Washington County Circuit Judge Joanna Taylor sentenced Rountree to 30 years at the Arkansas Department of Correction with 12 years suspended.

"This case is a tragedy in that so many lives will be forever changed for the senseless and selfish actions of one 22-year-old man," said Denis Dean, chief deputy prosecutor. "In a time when so many options exist for an individual to get alternative transportation after drinking, this sentence should serve as a reminder to the community that drunk drivers will be punished severely for their decision to get behind the wheel intoxicated."

Jorgia Cole, 18, of Edgerton, Kan., was killed about 6:35 p.m. Jan. 26 when the 2005 GMC Sierra she was a passenger in was struck from the rear by a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Rountree on Interstate 49 near the Bobby Hopper Tunnel in rural Washington County, according to a report from the Arkansas State Police. The crash took place at mile marker 43 in the southbound lanes of the highway.

Cole and Stewart Sayward, 28, of Wesley, were both ejected from Sayward's vehicle. Cole was pronounced dead at the scene. Sayward was taken to a Tulsa, Okla., hospital for treatment.

According to prosecutors, witnesses said Rountree was driving more than 100 mph when he struck the back of the victims' vehicle causing it to overturn.

Rountree was cited for driving while intoxicated, registering .21 on a portable breath test at the scene, .23 on a blood test at a local hospital and .17 on a test at the Washington County jail, more than three hours after the crash. The legal limit in Arkansas is .08.

Police reported finding a beer can, a whiskey bottle and a THC vape pen in Rountree's car after the crash.

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