Shauntae Marie Hill was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for aggravated vehicular homicide and other crimes for a two-car crash that claimed the life of a 5-month-old girl.
Hill, 26, of Akron, also had her driver’s license suspended for life — the second such penalty imposed against her since she began driving 10 years ago, prosecutors said.
Her co-defendant, 38-year-old Lynette Hayward, who was the deceased child’s grandmother, was given two years of probation in lieu of prison and placed under house arrest, with work privileges, for 30 days.
Hayward, who was acquitted of aggravated vehicular homicide in the joint trial last month, was found guilty of felony child endangering and first-degree misdemeanor operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Her child endangering conviction was for failing to properly secure the infant, Chyna Kidd, in a car seat after picking her up at a relative’s home just moments before the crash.
Under Ohio law, the sentencing range Hill faced for an aggravated vehicular homicide conviction was three to 11 years. In recommending eight years, Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jennie Shuki told Summit County Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer about Hill’s past felony record, what she called “a horrible, horrible driving record” and her “complete disregard for the safety of others” in acting as she did on the night of the crash.
The crash occurred about 4 a.m. Aug. 29, 2010, as Hayward was making a legal left turn onto Mercer Road from the westbound lane of Copley Road. Hill’s car struck Hayward’s with such force, Shuki said, that Hayward’s car was propelled backward and came to rest against a telephone pole.
Chyna was violently thrown under the front seat of Hayward’s car, causing fatal head injuries.
Prosecutors said in opening statements the two women were driving drunk that night, and thus, both were responsible for the child’s death.
Stormer handed down the sentences as family members and friends of both women filled every seat and bench in the public gallery.
Hill was taken into custody immediately after the hearing, with her hands cuffed behind her back by a sheriff’s deputy. Before she was led away, Hill turned to the rear of the courtroom, weeping, and repeatedly apologized to the child’s mother, India Poindexter.
“I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been sorry since day one,” she said in her final remarks.
Hayward reported to the county probation department with her attorney, Walter Madison, after the sentencing.
As Madison stood before the bench, asking Stormer for probation for his client, he stressed that Hayward was not drunk that night and, in the jury’s findings, was not even considered impaired.
Her blood-serum hospital test for alcohol, Madison said, was only six-thousandths of a point over the state limit. Hayward’s conduct that night constituted only an act of negligence, he said.
If not for the actions of Shauntae Hill, he said, “this accident would not have happened and Chyna would still be here.”
An Akron police crash reconstruction expert testified at trial that Hill’s car was eastbound on Copley, going between 52 and 62 mph when she struck Hayward’s car broadside. Hill immediately ran from the scene, according to trial testimony, and was found nearby on the back porch of a home.
Shuki told Stormer that Hill had previous felony convictions for aggravated possession of drugs, aggravated assault and receiving stolen property. She also had 11 driving citations since 2007 and was driving with a suspended license at the time of the fatal crash.
“You have to realize,” Stormer said in addressing Hill, “that you can never, never drive again.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or email@example.com.