Reporting Jennifer McLogan
NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880 / 1010 WINS) – Wednesday’s sentencing did little to ease the pain for a tortured family who lost their 11-year-old daughter to a drugged driver.
For the Sipes family, the punishment does not fit the crime., reports CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan.
Tearfully clutching a framed picture of Courtney Sipes, her anguished mother, father and brother – their family now reduced to three – struggled out of the courtroom with a message.
WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall reports
“The need for stiffer penalties when it comes to leaving the scene of an accident,” mother Lavena Sipes said.
Maureen Lambert had just pleaded guilty, and will serve four to 12 years in prison. The 21-year-old Stony Brook woman admitted to ingesting heroin before climbing behind the wheel of a 6,800-pound SUV.
She weaved down Main Street in Smithtown at speeds of 60 miles an hour. As 11-year-old Courtney crossed the street with her mom and brother on the way to her music lesson, she was struck with such force that she came right out of her shoes.
Lambert fled the scene of the crime.
At the sentencing, Lambert’s mother rushed, sobbing, out of court, as her daughter apologized for mowing down young Courtney Sipes.
“I think she has to say it pretty loud,” father Tracy Sipes said. “It’s a long way for Courtney to hear it from the grave.”
The fatal crash drew attention to the heroin problem on Long Island, which destroys not only the families of addicts but also victims like Courtney, say the Sipes.
“What we as a family will miss the most: all the wonderful, sweet things she did; her laughter, smiles and talent; the potential that she had to be something really special and to do such good for society,” Lavena said.
“You have no other choice than to be strong with your family,” Courtney’s brother, Cameron Sipes, said. “It is the only way you can survive through something like this.”
The Sipes family wants changes in the law. They say Lambert beat the system – she didn’t turn herself in for 26 hours, after the heroin had worn off, reducing her potential culpability and receiving a lighter sentence.
The judge had little sympathy for Lambert, scolding her for the reckless choices and saying he will recommend she serve the full 12-year sentence.