When Robby Vincent Smith pushed a 69-year-old man to the ground and kicked him during an argument, he never imagined that the man would later die, his attorney said in Forsyth Superior Court on Wednesday.
But Daniel Bruce Souther did die nearly two months after the incident, and on Wednesday afternoon, Smith, 38, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and assault inflicting serious bodily injury.
Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court sentenced Smith, who had no prior criminal record, to serve a minimum of one year and six months to a maximum of two years and seven months in prison.
According to Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding, the two men had never met before March 1, 2019. Breeding said that Souther and his wife were staying at the Budget Inn at 600 Peters Creek Parkway for a mini-vacation. Smith and his wife had been staying at the Budget Inn for a long period of time.
The two men got into an argument after Souther backed his car into Smith's car. Breeding said Souther denied it and then made an offensive remark at Smith's wife. Smith became angry and demanded that Souther apologize, but Souther refused.
On March 2, 2019, the two men began arguing again, but this time, Smith pushed Souther to the ground, where his head hit the pavement, and then kicked him, Breeding said. Surveillance video at the hotel doesn't show exactly where Smith kicked Souther but Smith later told investigators that he did kick Souther in the face.
Breeding said Smith and his wife got into a car and drove away. Winston-Salem police responded and, when officers arrived at 10:44 a.m., emergency-medical technicians were treating Souther for a head injury. Souther was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Eight days later, Souther was admitted to the hospital. His wife, who has since died, told investigators that Souther had not fallen or had any other injuries. Breeding said his condition deteriorated quickly and he died on April 21, 2019.
An autopsy determined that Souther had numerous medical issues, including a heart condition and Parkinson's disease. But the head injury Souther received in March contributed to his death, Breeding said in court.
U.S. Marshals took Smith into custody on Aug. 5, 2019, and he made a statement to police in which he admitted that he pushed Souther and kicked him, according to Breeding. Smith told investigators that when he and his wife left the hotel, he prayed for Souther, Breeding said.
Terrence Hines, Smith's attorney, said Smith deeply regrets his actions and is a deeply religious man. He said Smith had no ill-will toward Souther and only wanted an apology from him about Souther's remarks to his wife.
Smith and his wife, Hines said, have nine children, the oldest in his 20s.
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