LI woman gets 4 to 12 years for fatal hit and run

December 8, 2010 2:50:44 PM PST
The driver who killed an 11-year-old girl in a hit and run crash on Long Island was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison Wednesday.

There was heartbreak at the sentencing of a woman who was driving high on heroin when she killed a little girl.

11-year-old Courtney Sipes was run down just before Thanksgiving last year.

It was all the Sipes family could do to hold themselves together, as they watched the sentencing of the woman who mowed down 11-year-old Courtney: a beloved daughter and sister with so much life to live.

"What we as a family will miss the most is her laughter, her smiles, her talent, the potential that she had to be something really special, and to do such good for society," said Lavena Sipes, Courtney's mother.

Those dreams were dashed two days before Thanksgiving in 2009.

Courtney, accompanied by her mom and brother, was heading to a music lesson on Main Street in Smithtown.

They watched as she crossed into the path of 21-year-old Maureen Lambert who was high on heroin, and doing over 60, in a 30 mile per hour zone.

Lambert never stopped.

"We will never forgive her, and she's a monster," said Cameron Sipes, Courtney's brother.

When Lambert finally turned herself in 28 hours later, the drugs had left her system.

Even though she'd admitted to shooting up, prosecutors had no physical evidence of her heroin high, and were forced to make a deal.

She'll serve up to 12 years, but would have faced up to 15 had she not run away.

"People who are impaired by alcohol or drugs benefit by leaving the scene because it impairs the prosecution's ability to prove their case," said Jeffrey Kimmel, the Sipes' family lawyer.

Wednesday, Maureen Lambert's mother wept after the sentencing.

Lambert was begging Courtney's family for forgiveness, "I am deeply sorry for the loss of your daughter," she said, "I know a million sorries can't change it."

"I think she'll need to say that pretty loud. It's a long way for Courtney to hear it from the grave," said Tracey Sipes, Courtney's father.

At the spot where Courtney died, the state quickly made changes to pedestrian safety, and installed a fence to force you to use the crosswalk.

They've also retimed the lights to give you more time to get across the street.

But Courtney's family is also hoping the state changes the traffic laws they say let Maureen Lambert off so easy.

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