A judge has convicted a Georgia driver who was high on prescription drugs when she fatally ran over an avid cyclist from Minneapolis on a group bike ride near her university.
Whitney B. Howard, 31, of Hull, Ga., was found guilty Tuesday after her trial on 11 of 14 counts in connection with the death of Ashley Block, a University of Georgia student, in September 2016.
The most serious of the guilty verdicts included first-degree homicide by a vehicle, serious injury by a vehicle and driving under the influence of drugs. Howard, who remains jailed, will learn how much time she will spend in prison during sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.
Athens-Clarke County District Attorney Kenneth Mauldin said Wednesday that Howard faces up to 31 years in prison, and “we’re going to ask for a very strong sentence, something very close to that, based on everything.”
The indictment against Howard revealed that she was under the influence of methadone and other drugs for anxiety and depression and was reaching to answer her cellphone at the time of impact. Howard’s toddler daughter was in the SUV with her at the time.
Howard crossed the centerline and struck Block head-on during an early-evening ride with two others heading in the other direction on their side of the road. Rider Mitchell Enfinger suffered brain and spinal injuries, while the third cyclist was less seriously hurt.
Howard was arrested twice previously last year on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Block was a Ph.D. student in anthropology, with interests in environmental communication, forest regeneration and ecological anthropology, according to her academic profile. Along with being a cycling enthusiast, Block participated in various long-distance running races.
The Minneapolis native attended Minnehaha Academy and then college at Sewanee in Tennessee, where she ran cross-country.
Speaking about Block’s family members, Mauldin said, “I can’t imagine everything they’ve gone through. We always tell families of victims of homicide there’s nothing we’re going to do in court that’s going to bring back their loved one.”