(Palmer, AK) –Wednesday, Palmer Superior Court Judge John Cagle sentenced Melvin Samuel, 26, to a composite sentence of nine years six months with four years suspended for manslaughter, first-degree assault, and driving under the influence. Samuel crashed while driving more than 100 mph, killing a passenger and severely injuring another.
Samuel received nine years with four years suspended on the manslaughter, five years flat for first-degree assault with all but six months concurrent, and one year flat for driving under the influence concurrent.
On April 30, 2019, Samuel, James Taylor III, 35, and Alex Felber, 29, went to an Anchorage area bar and then went to shoot pool after work. Taylor wanted a ride to Wasilla, so Samuel complied. On the way to Wasilla, Felber told Samuel to “punch it.” Samuel estimated he reached speeds in excess of 100 mph and lost control of the vehicle. The crash ejected both Felber and Taylor because they were not wearing seatbelts. EMS declared Taylor deceased on scene. They transported Felber to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage where he was placed in a medically-induced coma. He survived his injuries and recovered from the coma. Felber suffered several broken bones and a traumatic brain injury as a result of the crash. An Alaska State Trooper seized samples of Samuel’s blood and sent them to the Alaska State Crime Lab. Samuel’s blood alcohol content was .129 g/100 mL The legal limit in Alaska is .08 g/100 mL.
The offense occurred after enactment of Senate Bill 91 but prior to House Bill 49; thus, Samuel faced a presumptive range of five to nine years. Samuel had no prior criminal convictions. Given the typical nature of the DUI homicide, it is appropriate for Samuel to receive a conviction for each victim within the presumptive range. Samuel has been incarcerated since his arrest on May 29, 2022, for the charges.
Contact Assistant District Attorney David Buettner at David.Buettner@alaska.gov.
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