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Hit-and-run driver gets 10-year sentence

by Tom Chillemi

Middlesex Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Hurd portrayed Shawna Marie Lindy as being “morally depleted” as he argued for the maximum sentence allowable for failing to stop at the accident where Joshua M. Halstead died on November 2 after he was struck by an SUV Lindy was driving.

“What Shawna Lindy did after the crash was directly contrary to the core basic human values that we are based upon,” Hurd told Circuit Court Judge William T. Shaw III.

Josh Halstead, 18, was struck from behind on November 2 about 10 p.m. as he was walking with his 10-year-old brother and a friend on the westbound shoulder of Route 602, in the
same direction as traffic. They were leaving the Urbanna Oyster Festival and were about a half mile from the town limits.

Lindy did not stop after her SUV struck Halstead, and her damaged vehicle was located about two hours later. She turned herself into police the next day.

On Monday, July 28, Judge Shaw sentenced Lindy to 10 years in prison and suspended all but 18 months with conditions.

Ten years is the maximum allowable sentence for felony hit-and-run.

He suspended 8 1/2 years of the sentence on conditions Lindy not violate any laws for 10 years, be on supervised probation, and submit to random drug screening. He suspended her driver’s license for six months.

She must repay court costs and $3,156 in investigation expenses.

Lindy, of Church View, will get credit for time served since her bond was revoked on January 29, 2008.

Before sentencing, a tearful Lindy turned to the family and friends of Halstead and apologized with a crying voice that was hard to understand. “I’m sorry,” she said.

Judge Shaw prefaced his sentencing by saying, “On the one inclination, you have a fine young man who died just as he was starting out his adult life, and died tragically.

“So, as a judge I say, ‘What if he were my son?’ If I did it emotionally, I’d probably want her to serve forever,” said Judge Shaw.

“But if I’m going to do that, then I say, ‘What if she’s my daughter? What do I want in that case?’ So there is a balancing. It’s not just simply saying I’m going to decide one way or the other. I have to do both,” said Judge Shaw.

Judge Shaw heard Martin Halstead, Josh Halstead’s father, say Lindy had caused Josh’s “parents, family and friends an ongoing nightmare. I am sick and tired of the daily reminder of this torment and loss.”

A member of the U.S. Army, Mr. Halstead said he has been “compassionately reassigned” to Virginia to help the family through the tragedy.

Donna Dunlevy, Josh Halstead’s mother, lined up four photographs of her son on the witness stand for Lindy to see. She held up each one and described them to the court.

Dunlevy testified that she went to the accident scene where she saw her son lying under a sheet, face down in the middle of the road.

She said her son Zachary, who was walking with Joshua and another person when his older brother was killed, couldn’t sleep for two months and “still has problems. There are days we don’t talk about Joshua.”

Mrs.  Dunlevy continued, “Our hearts yearn to have him with us and I would do anything to just have him smile again.

“The lives of our family have been changed forever,” said Mrs. Dunlevy. “There is nothing that can be said that will bring Joshua back or erase the tragic scene that is now forever implanted in Zachary’s memory.”

Zachary Halstead, now 11 years old, said his older brother was a “role model and inspiration for me,” a fact that was important since Mr. Halstead and Mrs. Dunlevy separated when Zachary was a baby.

“He taught me to dribble a basketball without looking down,” said Zachary. “Most of the stuff I know he taught me.”

After Josh’s death Zachary said he had “a hard time concentrating in school.”

Zachary said that since his brother’s death, he’s moved up to be a Boy Scout, graduated to middle school, and hit his first home run. “I know that if he could, he would be there for me. I also have faith that he was there in spirit, but that’s not the same as being there in real life cheering me on.”

Defense attorney Mike Morchower called no witnesses to testify on Lindy’s behalf.

During closing arguments Hurd portrayed Lindy as a “careless, dangerous and selfish person” who was concerned only about consequences to herself and lied to police and authorities.

Lindy first claimed to police she didn’t know what she had hit, noted Hurd, his voice wavering with emotion. “A young man’s head was smashed into her windshield and a man was on her hood for 149 feet.”

Josh was thrown onto the hood of the car and his head and his left shoulder hit the windshield, said Hurd. His shoes and socks were knocked off his feet as were his pants.

“She kept going,” said Hurd.

By leaving the scene Lindy could not be tested for alcohol or drugs, Hurd noted. “She knew that at the time.”

Hurd said Lindy drank one or two beers at dusk, and had taken NyQuil and Tylenol PM medications that cause sleep.

Hurd said there was not enough evidence to prove “gross recklessness,” which is among the criteria necessary for a conviction of involuntary manslaughter.

Hurd concentrated on the hit-and-run charge, which Lindy had pleaded guilty to on June 4. “She didn’t stop because she feared the consequences to herself,” said Hurd, noting this was evident in the probation and parole report and the Virginia State Police report.

“Anybody would know to stop and find out if there is anything that could be done” for the victim, he said.

“There’s a legal and moral duty that we are talking about, even if there was a dog that was struck or a deer that was struck,” said Hurd. “She had to know it was a person and she would not extend the same courtesy that the normal person would for an animal lying in the road.

“She knew what she had hit, and that it was a person, and that’s exactly why she didn’t stop,” said Hurd.

Lindy did not call 911; instead, she called friends and talked for 16 minutes about how this affected her, said Hurd.

Lindy later told police she struck a man in the center of the road, but “we know this is not true” from the police report, said Hurd.

Lindy said she slept in the woods, which was not true, and that she was by herself, when in reality an 11-year-old was in the seat next to her, said Hurd.

“She knew she was on probation in Gloucester for two drug charges,” continued Hurd. “She’s morally depleted of basic human values and the Commonwealth is concerned what she will be like when she is released.”

While on pretrial release for the hit-and-run, Lindy was ordered not to drink alcohol, and the pre-sentencing report stated “her drinking increased,” said Hurd. Her bond was revoked on January 29, 2008.

Lindy had violated her probation in Gloucester and bond requirements in Middlesex, said Hurd. “I don’t know what sentence beyond incarceration will do, because she’s shown what she’d be like outside of jail.”

Defense Arguments

Morchower said Josh Halstead “could not have survived” the impact. He said the key component of hit-and-run is to render medical aid. “There was no aid that could be administered,” he said.

The State Police report stated that Josh Halstead was “struck on the roadway as there was no indication of the vehicle traveling into the grass,” Morchower read.

The police report also states that one of the people walking with Josh Halstead warned him to stay off the road, said Morchower.

The speed limit on that portion of Old Virginia Street, which is without street lights, is 55 miles per hour even during Oyster Festival weekend. This, said Morchower, “is a tragedy in and of itself. He described the road as “a dangerous environment.”

“There is nothing we can do to change that night; there is nothing we can do to bring this young man back,” said Morchower. “We could give her a life sentence, if the court had the authority to do that, but it wouldn’t change the circumstances that were enunciated from the witness stand by the Halstead family.”

posted 08.01.2008

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