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Man Convicted in DUI Death of UM Students Out of Prison

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

John and Sarah Wheat
John and Sarah Wheat (pictured) died from injuries incurred in a fatal auto collision in 2013.

The man convicted of aggravated DUI in the deaths of Ole Miss students John and Sarah Wheat was released from prison Tuesday after serving six of his 12-year-sentence.

According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, John Howard Strickland Jr. was released on probation Tuesday.

Strickland, who was also enrolled at the University of Mississippi at the time of the crash, was sentenced in September 2013 by Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth to 25 years in prison, with 13 years suspended and 12 to serve. His sentence also included substance abuse rehabilitation, restitution for funeral and medical costs and five years of probation.

Strickland pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated DUI for the death of John Wheat. The death of Wheat’s sister, Sarah, was not prosecuted due to an error in the collection of a blood sample.

At the time of the crash, Strickland was under the influence of marijuana, prescription medication and canned air propellant difluoroethane when he crossed a median on Highway 6 and slammed into John and Sarah Wheat’s vehicle. The two were coming home from Tupelo after attending Race for the Cure.

According to MDOC, a law passed in 2014 that requires those convicted on or after July 1, 2014, to serve 25 percent of their sentence for nonviolent crimes and 50 percent for violent crimes before being considered for the Earned Release Supervision program. However, Strickland was sentenced in 2013, when prisoners were generally required to serve 85 percent of their sentence; however, there is some leeway provided for good behavior.

Mary Wheat, the sister of John and Sarah posted on Facebook Tuesday that her family has been blessed over the last six years.

“We have had overwhelming support and love from family, friends and even strangers,” she said. “We are grateful for every letter, email and phone call. We will never let John and Sarah’s memory fade.”

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