Driver Convicted in Fatal Maynardville Highway Wreck

DA Charme Allen announces that prosecutors in the DUI Unit obtained convictions against a drunk driver who killed an eighteen-year-old victim and severely injured a seventeen-year-old victim.  Roger James Barnhart, 42, was convicted of Reckless Homicide, Vehicular Assault, Reckless Endangerment, Driving Under the Influence, and other misdemeanor driving offenses. Judge Steve Sword sentenced Barnhart to eight years to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction.

In a four-day trial in November, Assistant District Attorneys Mitch Eisenberg and Liza Wells explained to the jury that on June 27, 2021, Barnhart spent the day drinking on Norris Lake before driving back to Knox County. Shortly before 8:00 P.M., Barnhart was texting and driving while heading South on Maynardville Highway near Texas Valley Road when he crossed all southbound lanes of traffic, entered the center turn lane, and collided with the seventeen-year-old victim driving northbound, with the eighteen-year-old victim in the passenger seat.  Barnhart struck the victim’s vehicle and overrode the hood crushing the victim in in the passenger seat and killing her instantly, while seriously injuring the driver.  An additional victim driving in the zone of danger of Barnhart’s actions was able to narrowly avoid the collision.  The hospital drew Barnhart’s blood, and testing revealed his blood alcohol concentration to be above the legal limit at the time of the wreck.  Because of Barnhart’s actions, the surviving victim suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple strokes, and had to learn how to walk and talk again.

“This is another example of the dangers of impaired driving,” said DA Allen. “We prosecute DUI cases in the hope that strict enforcement and aggressive prosecution may help prevent tragedies like the one in this case.”

In ordering a sentence to serve instead of probation in this case, prosecutors argued and the Court noted the defendant’s actions in this case were more egregious because Barnhart was an EMT who was keenly aware of the dangers of both drinking and driving and texting while driving.  Assistant Victim Witness Coordinator Brittany Wilhelmson aided in the prosecution of this case.

If you have any questions, please contact Sean McDermott at 865-215-2515 or For more information about the District Attorney’s Office, visit our website at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.