NORFOLK, Va. – Jonathan M. Brownell, 35, was convicted of aggravated involuntary vehicular manslaughter on Monday after pleading guilty to the charge in Norfolk Circuit Court. Mr. Brownell had been drunk driving when he crashed his car on Interstate 64, killing his girlfriend and front passenger Samantha Leigh Sims.
On Sept. 21, 2021, around 2:30 a.m., Mr. Brownell was driving on I-64 near Granby Street when he sped through a construction zone and narrowly avoided hitting workers. Mr. Brownell swerved and crashed into a stationary street sweeper truck, killing 23-year-old Ms. Sims instantly.
According to the car’s airbag control module, Mr. Brownell was driving between 95 and 103 miles per hour seconds before impact. The car was pinned under the street sweeper truck, and emergency personnel had to cut open the vehicle to extract Mr. Brownell from the driver’s seat. Virginia State Police troopers noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from the inside of the vehicle and, when Mr. Brownell was transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, he was observed to have watery, glassy, and bloodshot eyes. Mr. Brownell's blood was drawn about an hour following the crash, and his blood alcohol content was estimated to be between .16 and .18 — more than twice the legal limit.
Mr. Brownell is docketed for sentencing on June 23.
Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Emily A. Woodley prosecuted Mr. Brownell's case on behalf of the Commonwealth.