Charleston Police Officer Sentenced to One Year Probation in Fatal Crash

Charleston police officer Stephen Doss

Sitting on opposite sides of a Kanawha County courtroom, a Charleston police officer and the woman whose mother died in a car crash he caused only had sorrow in common Thursday afternoon.

“There is no good side to this,” Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said as he sentenced 27-year-old Stephen Doss to one year of probation and 10 days of community service for his role in the car crash that claimed the life of 80-year-old Dora Clarke, mother of Traci Aulenbacher, on Jan. 4.

Last month, Doss pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor emergency-vehicle violation for his role in the crash as part of a plea deal reached at a 2½ hour hearing on Nov. 4.

Doss was barely audible as he addressed the court Thursday.

“I would just like to say how very sorry I am to Mrs. Aulenbacher,” Doss said.

Aulenbacher cried while saying she felt Doss had not accepted responsibility for her mother’s death and that she has not been able to forgive him.

Aulenbacher asked Bloom to show Doss there were consequences for his actions and “that he is not above the law.”

“Police officers are to serve and protect,” she said. “His actions have proven he is not fit to serve, because you don’t protect. In fact, he endangers. My mother would want me to forgive him, because that’s the kind of woman she was. I can’t go there.”

Doss was indicted in August on three misdemeanor charges: an emergency-vehicle violation, negligent homicide and speeding.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Fred Giggenbach said Doss was traveling about 74 mph on Washington Street West — a 30 mph zone — as he approached its intersection with Maryland Avenue on Jan. 4.

Clarke was pulling out to cross Washington Street West when Doss’ vehicle collided with hers. She died five days later from the injuries she suffered in the crash.

Doss was en route to a report of a home invasion in which the suspect, who reportedly had a knife, had entered the home of a pregnant woman who had called 911, Giggenbach said Thursday.

In handing down his sentence, Bloom specified that he wants Doss to serve his community service with the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, to experience some “issues that exist on the streets that he may or may not be familiar with.”

Doss remains an employee of the Charleston Police Department, but he has been on paid administrative leave as the case proceeded through the court system.

Doss will be subject to administrative hearings with the Police Department and with the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee, with regard to the future of his employment with the department and his certification status as a law enforcement officer, Giggenbach said.

Bloom said Thursday he felt Doss had expressed remorse during his guilty plea and a pre-sentencing report, to which Aulenbacher wasn’t privy. Bloom said he understood Aulenbacher’s feelings and asked that she be provided a copy of a transcript of the hearing in hopes of finding some understanding between her and Doss.

“There is no magic formula for either of you,” Bloom said. “I just hope that, with time, you both can find comfort and some resolution in this matter.”