Schools mourn teacher killed in wreck

Hermione Stickle-Wommack

A Lynch Station man was jailed Thursday after pleading guilty to driving drunk and causing a wreck last March that killed a Campbell County teacher.

Virginia State Trooper Jason McCall testified Mark A. Elliott, 35, was driving north on Leesville Road just south of the intersection with Virginia 24 when he tried to pass a van at a double-yellow line. He ran head on into a vehicle driven by Hermione Stickle-Wommack.

The 62-year-old Evington resident had been a schoolteacher for 25 years. A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, she was a Spanish teacher at Rustburg Middle and Rustburg High schools when she died. She also had been a teacher at Forest Middle School.

Shane Stickle, Stickle-Wommack’s youngest son, said in an interview later Thursday that the guilty plea was a significant step forward for the family, emotionally.

“It’s been 10 months, and I’m thankful that this is coming to an end, so that we can get some closure on it,” he said.

McCall said witnesses saw Elliott speeding on Leesville Road on March 7, 2010, in a Mitsubishi Eclipse, passing one vehicle in a no-passing zone before trying to pass the van, which led to the fatal wreck.

Both Stickle-Wommack and Elliott had to be cut out of their vehicles.

“She was still alive,” McCall testified. “They were trying to extricate both of them.”

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul McAndrews told Judge John Cook a blood test showed Elliott’s blood-alcohol level was 0.2, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Stickle, who lives in Campbell County, recalled his mother as a vibrant woman loved by her students, who had a passion for mission work. She took yearly mission trips to China to teach English, he said.

“Her middle name was Joy, and that is what she brought to the world,” he said.

About 1,000 people, many of them current and former students, turned out for Stickle-Wommack’s memorial service, he said.

“A lot of them that did show up were students that she had 15 years ago,” he said.

Eric Stickle, of Lynchburg, recalled his mother in much the same terms.

“Family was the big thing,” he said. “She definitely enjoyed her grandkids, enjoyed life enjoyed teaching and had a good time doing lots of things.”

Travis Stickle, of Covington, said when he lost his mother he lost a friend who was constantly trying to make him a better person.

“I know I miss her, and I know there’s a ton of people that miss her,” he said. “Everything she did was for God.”

He said he hopes that his family’s tragedy will serve as a lesson for her students, and anyone else who hears of it, as the effects of drunk driving.

“Drinking and driving takes away loved ones. Don’t do it.” 

Elliott, who used a cane to get around the courtroom, had been free on a $10,000 unsecured bond pending his hearing Thursday, which had been scheduled as a jury trial.

His attorney, Mark Arthur, told the court Elliott would not object to that bond being revoked. Arthur said it was likely Elliott would need medical furloughs from jail for continuing medical treatment due to injuries suffered in the crash.

His sentencing was set for April 7. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and up to a year on the DUI charge.

Cook said Thursday that Elliott could be sentenced to consecutive terms on the charges.

Dumond can be reached at 385-5531 or cdumond@newsadvance.com.

Thompson can be reached at 385-5547 or dthompson@newsadvance.com.

 

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