A Moncks Corner man is now in prison after cutting his trial short this week, pleading guilty to a felony DUI charge for a wreck that killed a 77-year-old woman.

Samuel Thompson Jr., 61, entered the plea on Wednesday in Charleston County Circuit Court.

Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson sentenced Thompson to nine years in prison and imposed a $10,100 fine for the fatal crash that killed Margaret Deas of Charleston on the afternoon of Sept. 20, 2011, on Interstate 26 near the Rutledge Avenue exit.

Thompson’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit of .08, according to Greg Voigt, an assistant solicitor with the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. Thompson entered his plea three days into his trial, Voigt said.

“It was blindingly obvious to everyone he was guilty as charged and the best course of action was to plead guilty. He couldn’t see that until the very end,” Voigt said.

Witnesses had told the jury that the car driven by Thompson was speeding when it swerved, struck the guard rail and careened into the center median and, then, the vehicle driven by Deas. Two opened mini-bottles of banana schnapps were found in Thompson’s vehicle after the accident, according to officials with the Solicitor’s Office.

Deas did volunteer work in the community and remained quite active, according to Voigt. “She was a 77-year-old woman who was as active as a 57-year-old woman,” he said.

Voigt said he hopes this case resonates throughout the community and acts as a reminder of the possible consequences of driving under the influence. “You really have to think long and hard before you get behind the wheel,” he said.

With the incarceration of Thompson, who will have to serve at least 85 percent of his nine-year sentence, Voigt said two families are hurt.

“It’s a sad situation all the way around,” Voigt said.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.