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Navy Sailor enters guilty plea for manslaughter charge



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Carl and Eunice Ackermann walk along Old Castle Road in this undated photograph. Photo contributed by Nikki Paredes
October 25, 2013
The Navy Sailor who was involved in the deaths of long-time Valley Center residents Carl and Eunice Ackermann has pled guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter.

Earl DeCarlos Smith Jr., 21, allegedly struck the Ackermanns at approximately 6:15 a.m. on July 7 during their routine walk along Old Castle Road, killing them at the scene.

Smith, of Oceanside, changed his plea of not guilty on the day of his preliminary hearing and will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison in mid-December, a possible four years less than had he gone to trial and lost.

Smith was reportedly lost while heading to work after attending a friend's party in Fallbrook. He was driving 75 mph on the 55 mph road when he hit the couple and was said to be distracted by his cellphone GPS, causing him to swerve.

The DA's office said Smith's blood alcohol level was one and a half times the legal limit of 0.08 percent and according to previous reports this was not his first DUI.

Although a very private couple, the deaths of Carl, 79, and Eunice, 78, triggered an outpouring of grief from Valley Center and nearby communities.

Both were retired elementary school teachers and had since remained active through various philanthropic endeavors, including volunteering at hospitals for the elderly, working at youth camps and even repairing an animal shelter.

Over the past 15 years, the couple also volunteered at the children's section at Escondido Public Library, which hosted their memorial service in September.

During the memorial, Cynthia Smith, assistant city librarian said that the Ackermanns "stood for educating and discovery through learning and reading. They stood for giving back to the community through volunteering and dedicated service."

Although known on an intimate basis in Valley Center by very few, the devoted couple will be most notably missed walking hand-in-hand each morning along Old Castle Road, where dedications still remain.

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