A Waveland man was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison for manslaughter in the June 2016 boating death of a 19-year-old woman.
Earlier this month, a Hancock Circuit Court jury deliberated about an hour after a five-day trial before finding Eugene Butler Jr. guilty of manslaughter in the death of Vanessa Destiny Mauffray.
Vanessa and her boyfriend, Ryan Necaise -- now 28 -- were in a small boat setting crab traps on Bayou Caddy on June 25, 2016, when Butler allegedly ran over their skiff with his 20-foot fishing boat. Vanessa died from her injuries hours later at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport.
During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said that Butler was piloting his boat under the influence of marijuana at 25-35 mph when he came around a bend in Bayou Caddy on the wrong side and was looking away working on the boat's engine when he hit the skiff, fatally injuring Vanessa; then when Butler saw the skiff in the water ahead, he failed to try to avoid the crash.
"Deadly decisions, deadly actions, deadly consequences," Daniel said.
"After hearing arguments from both sides," District Attorney Joel Smith said in a press release Tuesday, Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois ruled Monday that Butler must serve 12 years in prison.
"Pursuant to habitual offender laws," Smith said, "the sentence must be served day-for-day without the benefit of parole or early release. Butler had previously been convicted in Hancock County of felony drug possession and grand larceny. The sentence will run consecutive to Butler's sentence in the grand larceny case, where he must complete five additional years of post-release supervision."
Before handing down the sentence, according to Smith, Bourgeois said "There are no winners here. On that bayou, two families were destroyed -- there is no question. There is nothing I can do to bring her back. It was an accident brought on by culpable negligence -- it was avoidable. It's a somber day. Everyone involved has lost. After the injuries were inflicted, you did try to help this young girl by calling 911, taking her to the dock and getting her aid. However, her life was cut short, and it is no one's fault but yours. A bad thing happened because of your recklessness. This was a difficult case with horrendous consequences. May Vanessa Mauffray rest in peace."
“This is an incredibly tragic and avoidable crime," Smith said, "and the consequences arising from the decisions that day have devastated many people and these Hancock County families. Although no sentence or punishment can bring Vanessa back, we are thankful that the Mauffray family received justice today.”