reports this searing account of the sentencing of the St. Peters woman, 24, who killed her passenger, another young woman, and seriously injured a young male passenger in a drunk driving accident last year. This is reporter Shane Anthony's story:
"St. Peters woman was ordered Monday into a four-month prison treatment program for a drunken-driving crash that killed her 24-year-old passenger.
Ashley P. Matthews, 24, of the 1100 block of Spencer Road, pleaded guilty in April of involuntary manslaughter and felony assault. She was driving a car on Highway 94 near Defiance on May 17, 2009, when she veered off the road, overcorrected and collided with an oncoming vehicle driven by David R. Mann of Augusta. Ashley Walker, 24, of St. Charles County, was thrown from the vehicle and died. Mann and Matthews both were injured.
Matthews refused a blood alcohol breath test. Investigators obtained a warrant to take her blood for tests, which revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.182 percent about an hour after the crash. Drivers are presumed drunk at 0.08 percent in Missouri.
St. Charles County Circuit Judge Nancy Schneider sentenced Matthews to a 120-day prison treatment program. If she completes the program, she could be placed on probation, if not, she could be sentenced to five years in prison.
Walker's family members spoke of their suffering since the crash. 'My heart is broken and has an emptiness that I imagine will never be filled again,' said Walker's mother, Debbie.
She asked Schneider to impose the maximum sentence, seven years in prison on each count and $10,000 in fines. Anything less would be an insult to her family and a slap on the wrist, Debbie Walker said. Ashley Walker's family members and friends filled one side of the courtroom gallery. Matthews' supporters filled the other. About a dozen people stood in the center aisle after all the seats were taken. There were few dry eyes.
Defense attorney Paul D'Agrosa said Matthews has been one of the most remorseful clients he has represented. She often cried in his office, he said, but not for selfish reasons. 'She cries for the friend that she killed and for the gentleman she injured in this accident,' he said. D'Agrosa said Matthews has received treatment for substance abuse. He also said Ashley Walker's blood-alcohol level was 0.212 percent. The roles could have been reversed, he said.
Assistant prosecutor John Bauer said the court should stop Matthews' pattern of behavior as evidenced by a minor-in-possession of alcohol charge from 2006 and a DWI arrest in 2009. Neither resulted in a conviction.
Matthews, who spoke briefly before she was sentenced, said she has wanted to apologize to Ashley Walker's family. 'I just want them to know that I am so sorry,' she said.
Schneider, who just began her 20th year on the bench, said she knew people on both sides of the courtroom would be upset no matter what she did. 'What I see here is an example of an all too common situation where young, irresponsible people engage in behavior that is so devastating to themselves and the community at large and certainly the families.'
Schneider said Matthews has a loving family and friends to support her, and she could still lead a positive, productive life."
I go to an AA meeting at 5:30 six days a week. During a comment a fellow AA said that on the first of every month he writes a check to the widow of the man he killed in a DWI accident. These stories may be old for you, but for me they are a constant reminder that alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful. Don't look away. This may not be you, but it could be someone you love.
[The photo is not from the accidents discussed with in the post.]