Yes, this happened in Florida.
A woman who ran over and killed a pedestrian, and then said it happened at least partly because she was distracted while talking to God, was sentenced to 32 years in federal prison.
April Dawn Thomason, from Key West, killed a woman in 2015 and blamed a combination of drug withdrawal and… God. She received her three-decade-long prison sentence on Monday, a month after she was finally convicted.
April Dawn Thomason, 46, ran over Stephanie Collins with her Mercedes-Benz on Sept. 15, 2015, and could have killed two other people, a jury found last month.
“I’m sorry for everything, most of all the loss of a person’s life,” Thomason said in court. “I’m so sorry for all the pain I caused.”
A jury convicted Thomason of vehicular manslaughter for the fatal crash on the sidewalk of South Roosevelt Boulevard where Stephanie Collins, 49, of Cudjoe Key, and her friend Ian McNab were walking that evening.
McNab was able to jump out of the way, but Collins was struck and went under the car.
Thomason pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, blaming the crash on severe Xanax withdrawal which she began on her own without any medical help. She had no intoxicants in her system, a blood test showed. She also told police she was distracted by talking to God while behind the wheel.
Moral of the story: Never take “Let Jesus take the wheel” too literally.
While her apology isn’t irrelevant, it doesn’t change the fact that she killed someone and endangered several others. Nor does it mean she’s taking responsibility for her actions, especially considering the “not guilty” plea and the variety of excuses.
An attorney for Thomason requested only five years in prison, with up to 25 years of probation, but the prosecution wanted something more severe. The judge agreed.
“There was no planning of a crime, no scheme,” [public defender Kevin] McCarthy told the judge at the Monroe County Courthouse. “It was a tragic mistake and an accident.”
Thomason blamed the side effects of Xanax withdrawal for the crash but the jury didn’t buy her claim that she was insane at the time. She told police after her arrest that she was praying while driving and got distracted.
Judge Garcia listened to testimony Monday that Thomason was sexually abused by one stepfather when she was a young girl and physically abused by another.
“Your darkest moments pale to the pain and suffering you caused Stephanie Collins and the pain and suffering you caused her family and friends,” Garcia told her.
Well said. Having terrible things happen to you doesn’t excuse you from crimes you commit, especially when your negligence is responsible for the death of a pedestrian. Even if it was an accident, she still needed to live with the consequences.
At least now she’ll have plenty of time to pray without distraction.