Man pleads guilty in deadly drunk driving crash

April 12, 2010 3:38:03 PM PDT
A man from Long Island has admitted he got behind the wheel of his giant pick up drunk before he crashed into another car, killing a mother of two.

"She was a wonderful woman. A wonderful - and I have to die with this pain," Anna Naclerio said.

One year later, Naclerio still clutches a picture of her daughter, Karen. The whole family's pain is as sharp as ever.

"He took my sister's life and we will never have her back, so he needs to pay the consequences for that," Lorraine Schwartz said.

One year ago, Karen was driving to work at Laguardia Airport when a drunk driver, John Harnage, slammed into her car after a night of debauchery at a Smithtown strip club.

In court on Monday, he admitted to downing six vodka drinks and some Xanax before hitting the road in his full-size pickup. He barely made it a mile.

A heart marks the spot where it happened at 3:30 in the morning last year. Harnage, drunk and high, could not navigate a curve and crossed the yellow line, causing the crash that ended a young mother's life.

The arrest was Harnage's third in 20 years for drinking and driving.

In court, he called the crash "unfortunate" and "regrettable" as he pleaded guilty to 14 counts, including vehicular homicide.

The judge sentenced him to 5 to 15 years in prison.

"He never intended to hurt anyone. He never wanted to hurt anyone, but the best he could do for this family now was to take the plea, end it, so they could go on with their healing process," attorney Ray Perini said.

Karen's husband and daughters, ages 6 and 9, weren't in court for Monday's hearing. They still live less than a mile from the crash site, and pass it every day.

As for Harnage, he will taste freedom for a few more weeks. He'll be back for a formal sentencing in a month and a half.