BEAUFORT, SC (November 18, 2019) – A Hilton Head Island man charged in the fatal DUI crash that killed a Hilton Head doctor on the Cross Island Parkway has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Richard George Alford, 67, pleaded guilty in September to felony driving under the influence resulting in death and felony hit-and-run in the crash that killed Jeff Garske on Aug. 18, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to a second DUI that occurred three weeks after he was released on bond for the first offense.
Sentencing was delayed until Nov. 18 at the defense’s request so that it could compile a pre-sentencing report.
“That report gives you a pretty good idea just who Richard Alford is,” said 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone, who prosecuted the case. “In it, he talks about what led to the second DUI. Nineteen days after he killed Dr. Garske, he took $3,000 out of an ATM and said he was thinking about driving to Charleston to check out an alcohol treatment center. Instead, he went to a liquor store, bought a bottle of vodka and started drinking in the parking lot.
“We heard a lot about ‘remorse’ today, but the fact is he had the financial means to treat his addiction and instead chose to drink and drive yet again.”
Alford received 25 years for the DUI resulting in death, suspended to 20 years with five years’ probation. Alford must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He received an additional five-year sentence for the hit-and-run offense and 30 days for the second DUI. Those sentences are to be served concurrently.
The plea was non-negotiated, meaning it was entered without an agreement between the parties about the length of the sentence. Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch handed down the sentence.
Garske was riding his bicycle on the eastbound shoulder in the Marshland Road area of the Cross Island Parkway when he was fatally struck by a 2011 Ford Pickup truck driven by Alford, who drove away from the scene.
Other motorists witnessed the crash and reported the pickup’s license plate number to authorities. One driver followed Alford to his home in Spanish Wells, where S.C. Highway Patrol officers found him and his damaged truck. Alford, who struggled to remain awake during a field sobriety test, admitted to drinking vodka earlier that day. He said he thought he had struck a mailbox or limb while driving along the four-lane, divided highway. However, he could not see well because he was driving into the sun, Alford claimed.
Garske died immediately from blunt head trauma, according to a medical examiner at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Garske was an orthopedic surgeon, husband, father of two and a grandfather. He also was an avid cyclist and a Boston Marathon bombing survivor. Several friends and family members addressed the court during Monday’s hearing.
“This man made a conscious decision, repeatedly, to get behind the wheel and drive drunk,” said Donna Garske, Jeff Garske’s widow. “This was not an accident, … and I ask that he be sentenced to the full extent of the law.
A month and 10 days after the wreck that killed Garske, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 9-1-1 call from a driver who followed Alford as he drove erratically on William Hilton Parkway. The responding officer smelled alcohol and spotted an open bottle of vodka in the vehicle. Alford failed a field sobriety test and was again arrested and charged with DUI.
Alford also was charged with a DUI in Texas in 2011, Stone told the court, after he struck a vehicle in a restaurant parking lot and pleaded unsuccessfully with a witness not to call police.