Apr. 18--CLAYTON -- Christopher Cottrell, whose heavy-equipment truck struck and killed a wrecker operator in a hit-and-run incident in Des Peres last year, was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison.
Cottrell, 40, of Fenton, pleaded guilty Thursday in St. Louis County Circuit Court of involuntary manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license and marijuana possession. The sentence was imposed by Judge Colleen Dolan as part of a plea agreement.
Tow-truck driver Aaron Helfrich, 32, of Festus, was working at noon last April 30 on the shoulder of Interstate 270, just south of Manchester Road, when he was struck by a tractor-trailer and killed instantly. The driver who hit him did not stop.
The manslaughter charge alleged that Cottrell was criminally negligent in that he failed to maintain his vehicle in a single lane.
Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper J. E. Givens reported that police caught Cottrell later that day on Hoffmeister Avenue in Lemay, where he worked.
Police said Cottrell first denied he was even on I-270, then denied hitting anyone. Cottrell admitted the offenses in court Thursday and was taken into custody to begin his sentence.
Police said they found marijuana in the truck's cab, but prosecutor Alan Key said toxicology reports showed Cottrell had neither a significant amount of drugs nor alcohol in his body.
William Holland, an attorney who represents Daniel and Karen Helfrich, the parents of the victim, said the tests did show some methamphetamine and marijuana in the defendant's system.
The parents and Helfrich's wife, Tonya, have a civil suit pending in St. Louis County against Cottrell's employers, Holland said. It is scheduled for trial in October before Judge David Lee Vincent III.
At Helfrich's funeral, 112 tow trucks, their red, blue and amber lights flashing, took part in the procession.
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