WHEATFIELD – The woman whose vehicle struck and killed two teenagers in Wheatfield last summer will pay $243 for a traffic infraction.
"You got away with murder," Alyssa Aronow, the sister of one of the victims, told the driver, Carly A. Marrs, during Wednesday's sentencing.
Marrs, 20, of Eddy Drive, North Tonawanda, was convicted of imprudent speed and unlawful possession of marijuana in a Dec. 13 nonjury trial before Wheatfield Town Justice John J. Mattio. He acquitted Marrs of reckless driving, the most serious count against her.
The $150 fine and $93 surcharge were the maximum Mattio could impose.
Melanie J. Aronow and Quience Harper of Lockport, both 18, were killed shortly after midnight Aug. 20. A third Lockport pedestrian, Quincy R. Byrd, 20, was injured.
Marrs wept briefly as Aronow's parents sobbed through emotional speeches about their daughter. But she regained her composure by the time she spoke.
"For those who don't think I'm remorseful, it's the farthest from the truth," she said. "I will forever remember that night. I will remember how drugs can impact our lives."
Defense attorney Anthony J. Lana contended at the trial that Harper and Aronow didn't react to the headlights of the oncoming SUV because they might have been intoxicated. Post-mortem tests showed both had moderate to high levels of the active ingredient in marijuana in their bloodstreams.
"I'm not angry, Carly, anymore at you," said the dead girl's father, former Niagara County Legislator Glenn S. Aronow. "I wish you had slowed down. I wish you had watched the road. I hope you have a long life, and I hope you don't forget her."
Lana said Marrs "can't concentrate because of what happened. She's seeing a psychologist. She was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)."
An investigation by the Niagara County Sheriff's Office showed Marrs was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so she could not be charged with felonies such as vehicular manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. The marijuana charge resulted from the discovery of a pipe with pot residue in the back seat of her vehicle. State law required Mattio to grant Marrs an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on that violation.
The deaths occurred on a poorly lit stretch of Shawnee Road, a two-lane road whose shoulders were lined with parked cars because of a large party, which the victims were attending.
Aronow and Harper were struck on the right side of their bodies by the right side of Marrs' sport utility vehicle, the investigation showed. That indicated they were walking toward Marrs' southbound vehicle.
Mattio convicted Marrs of imprudent speed because he concluded that she should have slowed down because of the congestion. The "black box" in the SUV showed she was moving at no more than 59 mph one second before impact, but the data recorder has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 mph. The speed limit on Shawnee Road is 55 mph.
Lana said that the victims were walking in the traffic lane because of the parked cars.
Assistant District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner, who prosecuted the case, did not speak during the sentencing and declined comment afterward. Mattio said he saw no need to reiterate his remarks from his written verdict, which called the case "an accident and not something heinous or worthy of incarceration."
Aronow's mother, Diane Misch, said of Melanie, "I don't want her to be remembered as the girl who was high in the road and got hit. She was killed the day before she was going to leave for college."
Misch read the essay on Melanie's application to SUNY Fredonia, which detailed how she was born 10 weeks premature and survived surgeries and other treatment at Women and Children's Hospital. It ended with her calling herself a fighter.
"If Carly had just slowed down, Melanie might still be alive. She never had a chance to fight," Misch said.
"Had she slowed down to 45, I don't think the outcome would have been any different," Lana said.