CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The woman charged in a deadly hit-and-run crash was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday, but is only expected to serve five.
Audrey Murphy, 73, was facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and hit-and-run stemming from the Feb. 27 incident.
She received a 10-year sentence with 7 years suspended for the manslaughter charge, and a 10-year sentence with 8 years suspended for the hit-and-run charge.
The accident occurred when Murphy rear-ended a Ford SUV, pushing it into oncoming traffic and resulting in a second collision.
The passenger of the SUV, 29-year-old Jamie Freeman, later succumbed to injuries from the incident. Freeman was in the car with her husband at the time of the crash.
In court Tuesday, Murphy testified that she had a drinking problem. She admitted to going to the Skeleton Key Bar at 1 p.m., she said she played corn hole, and drank but did not remember the wreck.
“I remember driving. I was at the light and I said something’s wrong with my car because it had stalled out. I said I have to get home with the car because I thought it was acting up, then I drove into my driveway and it stalled again,” Murphy said.
During her testimony, Murphy cried, apologized and begged for the family’s forgiveness.
“Please forgive me, please forgive me,” she said. “I don’t have the words to tell you how sorry I am,” Murphy told the Freeman family.
Murphy said it wasn’t until officers approached her at her house that she knew she had been in a wreck. She said her airbags never deployed.
Prosecutor Amy J. Stinnette said a receipt from that day showed Murphy drank five rounds of vodka in less than three hours.
“We had a citizen who saw her continuing to drive with her damaged vehicle, followed the vehicle and recorded his encounter with her. The only way to describe it is her hood is smashed in and she has no clue,” Stinnette said.
On the stand Murphy admitted that in addition to the alcohol, she’d taken arthritis medication and a Percoset for pain that day.
Murphy’s son testified that the family knew of her drinking problem that began when she retired in 2012.
“It’s been a problem for the majority of the family,” Stewart Lee Jordan said.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney asked for the maximum punishment for the two felony charges. The defense asked the judge to let Murphy out of jail because she has been there 10 months.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge John W. Brown said, “This is yet another tragic example of the mixing of alcohol, drugs and driving.”
After the hearing Murphy’s attorney said he didn’t agree with the decision.
“I’m very disappointed. I figured for a lady with no criminal background with another substance in her system — a date rape drug that…I know the court feels like it has to please the family of the victim, but there are other things he should have considered,” Sonny Stallings said.
As part of Tuesday’s sentence, Murphy will never be able to drive again, she can not have any alcohol and will serve 15 years of probation.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Nancy G. Parr said. “People who choose to drive after drinking and/or using drugs are playing Russian Roulette with every innocent driver and passenger on the road. Hopefully, prison sentences, especially when publicized, will deter drivers from making that potentially fatal decision.