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Woman sent to prison for fatal 2011 wreck

Judge hands down 20-year sentence

Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 1:15 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 7:10 AM
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An Augusta woman was sentenced to prison after being convicted in a 2011 wreck that killed a Barnwell, S.C., teen.

Kristine Marie Heath, 37, was sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 10 years on probation for vehicular homicide in the death of 18-year-old Morgan Renew.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Kristine Marie Heath, 37, was sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 10 years on probation for vehicular homicide in the death of 18-year-old Morgan Renew.


After two days of testimony and more than three hours of deliberation, a Columbia County jury found Kristine Marie Heath, 37, guilty of vehicular homicide, five counts of serious injury by vehicle and failure to stop at a stop sign.

Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis sentenced Heath to 20 years in prison followed by 10 years on probation.

“I’m not seeing an acceptance of responsibility, none at all,” Annis said at the sentencing after the trial at the Columbia County courthouse in Evans.

“I’m shocked by the total lack of remorse or concern or emotion, that you realize that you’ve just taken a life.”

On June 17, 2011, Heath and six passengers were leaving a family reunion at a Ridge Road campground in Appling when she ran a stop sign at the intersection of Washington Road. Her Ford Explorer was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by Angel Herrin, of Augusta.

Morgan Renew, 18, of Barnwell, S.C., was a backseat passenger and was partially ejected from a window. She died from her injuries.

Several people were in Heath’s vehicle and Herrin, her husband and 8-year-old daughter suffered serious injuries.

“I’m sorry is not enough,” Heath told the Renews and Herrin. “I wish I could take it all away. If there was anything I could do to change this, I would.

“I am sorry. I am.”

Throughout the two-day trial, Heath’s attorney, Pete Theodocion, maintained that Heath was not impaired by alcohol, though she admitted to drinking two beers before the wreck.

The jury did not find her guilty of vehicular homicide because she was driving under the influence, but because she was distracted and driving too fast.

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Fiat_Lux
16246
Points
Fiat_Lux 08/14/13 - 01:16 pm
3
7
Somehow...

The fact is that any alcohol can cause some degree of impairment. It's just that at certain levels, the impact is not considered significant enough to endanger people.

It's not possible to know for certain exactly how impaired this defendant was when the teenage was killed. Perhaps had she had nothing at all to drink, she would have seen the stop sign.

And then there is the little matter of the teen's potentially not having been in a seatbelt... which also is the driver's responsibility.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/14/13 - 01:56 pm
12
0
The road is curvy and the

The road is curvy and the stop sign pops up real quick if you're doin 35-45 mph. The road is cut out of a pine stand and appears like a big corridor that connects to Washington Road. If you aren't familiar, I'd allow that out of so many times, one person could miss that sign. Maybe they already have but were just lucky. I think the little bumpy nubs they put up to warn you of an approaching stop would have been a good measure here too. Just some observations though. I've nothing to consider in this case as I wasn't there, but the road itself is what it has always been. Condolences to all still after all this time.

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/14/13 - 02:07 pm
11
6
Actually

since she was 18 she doesn't have to wear one in the rear seat and even if in the front seat she would get the ticket not the driver.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 08/14/13 - 04:59 pm
0
0
According to reports
Unpublished

I have read, heath refused a breath-a-lyzer test and a blood-alcohol test. Given these circumstances, unless her lowyer ( who would have had to have been an expert in determining intoxication) was riding shotgun with her, how can it be said she was not under the influence? Just wondering.

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/14/13 - 05:20 pm
13
3
Thumbs down for the truth?

Some of you people need help lol

GiantsAllDay
10295
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/14/13 - 05:45 pm
15
2
I agree with Fiat Lux on this

I agree with Fiat Lux on this one. "The fact is that any alcohol can cause some degree of impairment". That is why if an officer asks you how much you had to drink, even if you had only one or even NONE, you polite fully respond, "no questions please". Do not EVER lie to him. If he keeps on asking insist that's its none of his business. Even truthful answers to a cop w/o a lawyer present can hurt you later on in court.

Little Lamb
48039
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/13 - 08:38 pm
12
0
Thank You

Thank you, GiantsAllDay. I have posted here many times that the ordinary citizen is no match for a policeman who is trained to interrogate persons. They can lead you down a hole you can not dig out of. You have a right to remain silent. Claim it. And claim it politely as GiantsAllDay recommended above.

Dixieman
16595
Points
Dixieman 08/14/13 - 08:44 pm
15
0
No brainer

My first day of law school our criminal law professor said, "Your client calls you from jail and says the police want to interrogate him. What advice do you give him?" It was our first day and none of us had had any legal training, but we all said, "Well, I would tell him to say nothing."
"Class dismissed," said the professor.
My advice hasn't changed in the 45 years since that day. I am always amazed to see people spouting for hours and hours in interrogation rooms on reality TV. I love the police, but they have NO POWER to influence the judge or prosecutor to "go easy on you" and if they write it down wrong you may be hung by their errors.
Mum's the word, folks, if you ever get arrested.

Darby
28430
Points
Darby 08/14/13 - 09:57 pm
15
5
GG, the thumbs down is not because you

posted helpful and truthful information. They are given simply because you have a track record. Intellectual sloths see your name and respond accordingly.

They don't even read what you have posted.

They disagree with you because you are you. Does that help?

Thummies from dummies.... I consider them a badge of honor.

dichotomy
36351
Points
dichotomy 08/14/13 - 11:02 pm
12
2
"Thummies from dummies.... I

"Thummies from dummies.... I consider them a badge of honor"

You've got that right Darby. In this PC world I don't figure I've said anything worth saying unless I get a downer or two on every post.

Grandpa Jones
1104
Points
Grandpa Jones 08/15/13 - 04:27 am
4
10
...

“I’m shocked by the total lack of remorse or concern or emotion, that you realize that you’ve just taken a life.”

----------------------------------

From my experience of working in mental health field and Judge Annis' comments, I highly suspect this woman is suffering from mental illness. Therefore, it probably would have taken very little alcohol for her to become a "distracted driver" that night.

GiantsAllDay
10295
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/15/13 - 03:50 am
9
1
Dixieman and LL, thanks for

Dixieman and LL, thanks for your comments. The courts have ruled clearly on this issue. It is perfectly ok for the police to lie. (What kind of person would want a job lying for a living?). The cops can lie their butts off all day to you in order to get you to talk. But if you lie to them.....HUGE trouble for you...so if a nice looking policeman asks you politely "how's you day going, sir?" Just say "no questions, please" and keep walking.

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/15/13 - 06:06 am
1
3
I know Darby

but I couldn't miss a chance to yank on their chain some more lol...I would be curious to know what the points are for though....kind of pointless (pardon the pun) if you ask me....

Riverman1
90847
Points
Riverman1 08/15/13 - 06:43 am
9
0
Astounding Sentence

I don't get the sentence one bit. There is no evidence she was alcohol impaired. NONE. Were blood alcohol tests done on her? There is no mention of them. This idea if the person has had any alcohol and there is an accident the person is at fault is bogus. If that were the case, the law should be zero alcohol to drive. The "DUI Less Safe" thing can come into play if there is erratic driving, but there's no evidence of that here. For goodness sakes, she ran a stop sign on a winding road.

It's a terrible accident, but that road is tricky as David Parker said. Accidents happen and someone is usually at fault. She was, but it was an accident and she wasn't a drunk driver. The person who was killed was an adult and it was her responsibility to put the seat belt on.

She goes to prison for 20 years??? Reading her statement, it sounds remorseful to me regardless of what Judge Annis seems to feel.

Bodhisattva
6850
Points
Bodhisattva 08/15/13 - 07:18 am
9
1
Obviously the answer is to

Obviously the answer is to bring back Prohibition. Close all bars and ban all alcohol sales at restaurants. One sip evidently can make you an impaired driver and one omnipotent judge can tell your level of impairment AND your level of remorse if you have an accident. Lord knows, nothing can just be an accident anymore, we have to assign blame and we have to put the hammer down an punish with a vengeance. By gosh you can be distracted tuning the radio, eating a burger, or talking to someone in the car. That's it! Forever more, hands at the 10 and 2 position, no talking, no food, no nothing less some judge decide it impairs you and a tragic accident allows him complete control over your destiny. 20 years for an accident. Obviously the judge is a teetotaler. If not, please report him if seen drinking in public since if he gets behind the wheel he'll be impaired even if only having a sip. Needless to say, breathalyzer or blood tests shouldn't be taken into consideration, or his word, he'll be impaired, or at least he should be considered as such. If there are lawyers on here, wouldn't it be considered precedent? Also, for the record, I don't know anyone involved in this case, I just think it's a bit much and a power play by the judge. I do like saying his name out loud though. It has sort of a ring to it.

augrichgal
327
Points
augrichgal 08/15/13 - 07:24 am
8
0
Pretty harsh sentence for a

Pretty harsh sentence for a tragic accident. It is horrible that a life was lost, but this was not intentional, nor was she drunk. She apologized numerous times, why did the Judge think she was not remorseful? I am sure this is not something that has gone lightly on her conscience.

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/15/13 - 07:25 am
8
1
Yeah I agree

tad bit harsh on the sentence. There are people who commit murder on purpose that get less time!!

Cameron Poe
1031
Points
Cameron Poe 08/15/13 - 07:26 am
6
1
We have to be missing some

We have to be missing some major facts in this story. The jury convicted her not because she was impaired but because she was distracted? What was the distraction? The judge gave her the tough sentence because he felt she wasn't remorseful enough? She gave a fairly remorseful sounding statement. Feels like us readers are getting the swiss cheese story. Full of holes!

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 08/15/13 - 07:40 am
0
0
Accidents cannot be predicted. Speed & poor judgement cause.
Unpublished

Accidents cannot be predicted. Speed & poor judgement cause.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 08/15/13 - 07:41 am
0
0
soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 08/15/13 - 07:42 am
0
0
Avoidable tragedy, yes. Unpredictable tragedy, no.
Unpublished

Avoidable tragedy, yes. Unpredictable tragedy, no.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 08/15/13 - 07:43 am
0
0
The loss of human life means nothing in America. Predicable.
Unpublished

The loss of human life means nothing in America. Predicable.

redfish
785
Points
redfish 08/15/13 - 07:44 am
5
0
I know Miss Heath and I can

I know Miss Heath and I can tell you she is and has been very remorseful over this accident. The sentence is unduly harsh in my opinion, especially considering the lenient sentences given to much worse cases. This is an example of a good person's life being effectively ruined by a judge's inexplicable decision regarding sentencing. I would certainly hope Miss Heath appeals this sentence and I hope she is successful.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/15/13 - 07:46 am
2
0
What chance for an appeal?

What chance for an appeal?

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 08/15/13 - 07:47 am
0
0
8 yr old driving gold cart after dark, no lights. Accident?
Unpublished

8 yr old driving gold cart after dark, no lights. Accident?

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 08/15/13 - 07:48 am
0
0
American Reality. "I'm doing my thing, get out of my way"
Unpublished

American Reality. "I'm doing my thing, get out of my way"

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/15/13 - 07:56 am
3
2
I am remembering the young lady

in Columbia County that was driving the SUV with passengers that she was not supposed to have in her vehicle. didn't she have a past violation for speeding too? Didn't she only recieve a slap on the wrist?

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/15/13 - 08:07 am
2
1
Now this guy killed 2 people and was drunk....huge disparity

Brandon Christopher Newman, 27, received 22 years in prison after being found guilty of two counts of vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, driving under the influence and reckless driving.

Young Fred
19572
Points
Young Fred 08/15/13 - 08:32 am
4
1
I agree with Cameron

...on this. For 20 year sentence to make any "sense", pertinent facts are missing from this story.

This seems to be a common, a very common occurrence with the AC here lately. What's going on guys? Is everyone so overworked at this paper, that no time can be spared to dig up relevant facts?

edit - I see this story is actually from the News-Times, but I stand by my question.

Grandpa Jones
1104
Points
Grandpa Jones 08/15/13 - 08:15 am
5
0
....

There are people who commit murder on purpose that get less time!!
------------------------------------------------------
Remember the two women who robbed and shot a man and then left him in the middle of street to die. Both were sentenced to 7 years each!

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/crime-courts/2013-05-23/2-women-senten...

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