Share this article

print logo

Plea deal in fatal DUI will mean 3 to 9 years in prison for woman

Samantha M. Thompson is headed to state prison for driving under the influence of heroin in a head-on crash that killed a Niagara Falls man and seriously injured his granddaughter.

The sentencing date is June 6 for Thompson, 21, of Mill Street, Lockport, but State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. announced Wednesday that he was approving a plea bargain with a sentence of three to nine years in prison.

That means Thompson will be eligible for parole in three years; nine years is the most she could serve if the Parole Board denies release.

"I want you to know I'm going to write them a letter indicating I think you should serve the full amount of time," Kloch told her.

"On these fatalities, I haven't seen them parole anybody," defense attorney Dominic Saraceno said.

Kloch ordered Thompson to Niagara County Jail without bail to await sentencing for second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular assault and driving while her ability was impaired by drugs.

"I am ecstatic about them finally locking her up. It's about time," said Tyronda Ivey, 33, who walks with a cane because of her injuries from the wreck at 7:30 p.m. June 21 on Saunders Settlement Road in Lewiston.

Ivey suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in her right leg, as well as knee and ankle fractures in that leg. She has a titanium rod in the leg, as well as screws in the ankle and knee.

Her grandfather, Elijah Holmes, 82, died in the head-on crash between two sport utility vehicles. He was a passenger in Ivey's Chevrolet Tahoe.

Thompson's son, then 6 months old, was riding in her Chevy Blazer at the time of the crash.

Thompson made her court appearances in a wheelchair, while Ivey and her family insisted she was exaggerating the seriousness of her injuries.

After being taken into custody Wednesday, Thompson walked up a ramp from the County Courthouse basement to a patrol car under her own power, with a pronounced limp, while a sheriff's deputy pushed the empty wheelchair behind her.

Saraceno said, "She wanted to put this behind her. She wanted the family to have closure."

Kloch said he was approving the plea to save the victim's family from having to go through a trial.

That family exchanged some obscenities with Thompson as she waited for an elevator to a holding cell after court.

"When she goes up for parole, I'll be there," Ivey vowed. "My injuries and stuff aren't for three to nine years. My grandfather isn't going to come back in nine years."

Thompson told one of the three court-appointed psychologists who interviewed her to determine her competency that her baby's father "shot her up with heroin that morning [of the crash.]"

Dr. R.P. Singh, who was called in as a tiebreaker after two other doctors disagreed on whether Thompson was competent to stand trial, said she had "mild cognitive deficits" in the wake of the crash and a resulting stroke blamed on an arterial injury.

But according to quotes from the report read by Kloch from the bench, Singh said Thompson "was exaggerating her difficulty" and, when Singh challenged her, gave up the pretense of not knowing what day it was.

In regard to Holmes, Singh quoted Thompson as saying, "That guy died of a heart attack. Is it my fault he was his his 80s and his heart was bad?"

"Never," Ivey said as Kloch read that quote.

On the question of going to trial or taking a plea, the psychologist said Thompson told him, "I would choose whatever was less sentence time."

A jury conviction on the most serious charge would have left her vulnerable to a maximum sentence of five to 15 years.

Kloch said, "My understanding is, you drove completely over the centerline of the highway."

"I was trying to pass," Thompson responded.