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Laurens man sentenced to 20 years in plea deal

Robert Curry Richardson, left, awaits sentencing Wednesday morning along with Public Defender Joel Broome after accepting a plea arrangement.

A Laurens man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday morning in connection to a 2021 fatal collision that killed a 20-year-old volunteer firefighter from Clinton.

Robert Curry Richardson, 57, of Laurens, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to felony DUI resulting in death and hit and run resulting in death in connection to the June 2021 collision that took the life of City of Clinton firefighter, 20-year-old Hunter Sipes.

Circuit Judge Eugene C. Griffith sentenced Richardson to a total of 20 years in prison on both charges with the sentences running concurrently. Richardson will serve at least 17 years before being eligible for parole.

On a sunny June 2021 afternoon around 2 p.m., Sipes was riding his motorcycle along U.S. Highway 76 between Clinton and Laurens when Richardson attempted to turn onto the highway from a private driveway directly in front of the victim. Sipes’ motorcycle struck the driver side of the Richardson’s vehicle and was mortally injured. Richardson fled the scene and was later located near a local business where he failed a field sobriety test. Richardson would later be determined to have a 0.203 blood-alcohol content, over two times the legal limit.  Sipes was taken to a local hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.

An eyewitness said he saw the defendant get out of the vehicle and look at Sipes, who was lying on the ground. Richardson then got back into his car and fled the scene. During the investigation, law enforcement officers noted that Richardson’s sole concern was for the damage to his vehicle and potentially losing his job.

8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo handled the case for the state, with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Walter Bentley and 8th Circuit Victim Advocate Joy Lindsay. Richardson was represented by Joel Broome of the Public Defender’s Office.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with Trooper First Class James Ward of South Carolina Highway Patrol and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.

“The fact that this defendant saw Hunter’s wounded body lying in the roadway then got back in his car and fled the scene that he caused, concerned only with his own well-being, shows this man’s lack of remorse for his actions,” Stumbo said following the sentencing. “Hopefully this conviction and sentence will allow Hunter’s loved ones to move forward from this horrific loss of such an honorable young man and public servant.”

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