Emily Joyce Cope was recently sentenced on charges stemming from a crash in 2020 that resulted in the death of a husband and wife.
On April 18, Cope was operating a Chevy Trailblazer on State Route 119 in Bulloch County when she struck another car head-on and killed two people – Carolyn & Neil Swickard of Ellabell. A third person was in the Swickard’s minivan and was taken to the hospital with injuries, as was Cope.
Law enforcement officials said later that Cope crossed the center line while going around a curve and the Georgia State Patro later determined that Cope was under the influence of methampethamine.
The Georgia State Patrol took out warrants for Cope on August 26, 2020 and charged her with four counts of Homicide by Vehicle in the First Degree, Serious Injury by Vehicle Reckless Driving/DUI (1 count), Serious Injury b y Vehicle (1 count), DUI (1 count), Reckless Driving (1 count), Failure to Maintain Lane (1 count) and Driving on the Wrong Side of Road (1 count).
Note: The reason for 4 Homicide by Vehicle charges despite only two deaths is because felony vehicular homicide requires an ‘underlying offense’ to make the charge a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor. The tripling up of charges is a way for prosecutors to ensure a conviction of Vehicular Homicide even if the DUI does not ‘stick’ at the time of trial.
No Bond While Awaiting Trial
Cope’s public defender sought bond on September 1, 2020 and a hearring was held on September 21. The state argued against bond because Cope was a repeat offender and the court agreed, denying bond.
Cope’s new attorney, Scott Brannen, asked for the court to reconsider bond again on April 28, 2021 but that motion was again denied.
A year and a half later, on November 23, 2022, Superior Court Judge Lovett Bennett, Jr. ordered custody of Cope be transfered to an in-patient substance abuse rehabilitation facility in Macon.
Of note, the case was indicted in November 2020, but was reindicted on November 7, 2022, more than two years after Cope was arrested.
Ultimately, Cope entered a non-negotiated guilty plea on two counts of Homicide by Vehicle in the First Degree and one count of Serious Injury by Vehicle. The reamining counts were nolle prossed.
Judge Bennett sentenced Cope to the following:
- 15 years confinement
- 25 years probation
- $5,000 in fines, plus any add-on fees
- Banishment from Bullloch County
- No contact with the victim’s family
- No Early Term probation permitted
- No drugs or alcohol upon release
The sentence was ordered on August 25, 2023, so Cope was permitted to complete her substance abuse treatment program in Macon and then begin her confinement sentence. She was subsequently transported back to Bulloch County on October 10, 2023 and is awaiting transport to a facility within the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Other Vehicular Homicide cases in the Ogeechee Circuit