Widow of former legislator fights parole of drunken driver who caused his death

The widow of a former state legislator and restaurant owner is leading a petition drive asking the state Board of Paroles to reject the release of the drunken driver convicted of vehicular homicide in her husband’s death, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Debbie Locke is the widow of Mike Locke, former state representative and founder of the popular local eatery the Hot Dog Hut. Locke was killed on June 23, 2014, when an intoxicated driver struck him on Fort Henry Drive, sending him into a ravine 20 feet below.

The driver, James Hamm, has been incarcerated since his arrest. He was convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication, felony reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a collision involving a fatality and failure to exercise due care. He was later sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Now, less than 15 months after being sentenced, Hamm will be up for parole on Aug. 10.

“If he gets out, he will do it again, and this will put somebody else at risk,” Locke said. “Honestly, I’m appalled. I’m appalled that we the citizens of Kingsport or the state of Tennessee have to do this.”

To try to prevent Hamm’s parole release, Locke has started a petition that she plans to send to the parole board in Nashville… So far, Locke estimates that she has gotten between 850 and 900 signatures. Her goal is to get as many as possible by the middle of next week, at which point she will gather all the petitions and send them to Nashville.

…On the evening Mike Locke was killed, he was putting out campaign signs for Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, who was running for state representative at the time. Hulsey later won the election and holds the office Locke himself previously held.

Hulsey said he has signed the petition and plans to join Locke and her family at Hamm’s parole hearing.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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