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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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Young Fred
17467
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Young Fred 08/15/13 - 03:13 pm
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1
international @1:42 I imagine

international @1:42

I imagine a majority of those (of all races) getting harsh sentences claim it's too harsh.

It would be a difficult thing to actually measure, because you can't rely on raw numbers. It would be a very subjective exercise, how do you define harsh, how do you classify and measure all the varied and sometimes numerous factors and circumstances considered when sentencing?

Regardless, I can state with the utmost confidence, there has been a high number of minority criminals let off with a slap on the hand.

corgimom
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corgimom 08/16/13 - 05:47 am
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5
She killed one person and

She killed one person and seriously injured 5 others, through her negligence.

So what would be a fair sentence?

myfather15
55706
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myfather15 08/16/13 - 06:39 am
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internationallyknown

"And CLEARLY the scales of justice are balanced by race....and money." I would definately agree with the MONEY issue, a lot more than race. I've heard of and SEEN many of the prominent citizens of this area, being charged with DUI's and other traffic charges, only to see the charges mysteriously disappear before court.

I will NEVER disagree with anyone who says RICH people do get away with a LOT more than someone who lives in the trailer park!!

myfather15
55706
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myfather15 08/16/13 - 06:47 am
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Austin

"Kristine Heath admitted to drinking that night, but she refused to sign a consent form for the alcohol test, and the MEDICAL blood level test she received at the hospital was lost."

Refused? Was she charged with DUI Refusal? Did she refuse all field sobriety tests? If so, the deputies observations would help substantiate a refusal or DUI less safe charge. Medical blood level tests? Were these tests her OWN tests, paid for by her, that she has the right to request? She only has this right, AFTER first submitting to State administered tests, it's in the Implied Consent Notice, read to suspects at the scene, at the time of arrest. So, did she wait until AFTER bonding out, then go get her own private test? If so, how long after arrest was this? Also, people simply do not understand that most private tests are not admissable in court, because the citizens usually don't maintain a "Chain of custody" for the test results, hence; the results of hers was "lost".

myfather15
55706
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myfather15 08/16/13 - 06:55 am
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20 years is an astounding amount of time!!!

I must agree with other posts on here, this sentence seems astronomical!! In 16 years of court, I've literally seen people who INTENTIONALLY shot and killed someone, not in self-defense, get lighter sentences. I've seen numerous people charged with murder get 15 years or less. I recently witnessed a case of kidnapping, aggravated assault and armed robbery, get 17 years total.

There is another story on the Chronicle about a woman who WILLFULLY married an abusive man, KNOWING he was abusive; then ended up stabbing him to death and lied about it. She didn't receive a single day in prison, only 10 years probation, WOW!! This woman, who I haven't seen convicted of DUI, obviously unintentionally and sadly, killed a young person; but is given 20 years!! Does she deserve punishment? You better believe it!! 20 years? WOW!!

So a woman willfully enters into a relationship with a man she knows is abusive, then ends up killing him because of his abuse, and gets probation only!! I doubt ANYONE would say Mrs. Heath WANTED to kill this young person, but gets 20 years. I can't say enough, how insane this APPEARS to be!!

Riverman1
84151
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Riverman1 08/16/13 - 07:06 am
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Myfather, What Austin Said

Austin said, "Kristine Heath admitted to drinking that night, but she refused to sign a consent form for the alcohol test, and the MEDICAL blood level test she received at the hospital was lost."

Austin may have more info than we have, but I question some of his statements. I'm not sure what he's talking about with this refusal to sign a consent form for the alcohol test. If she refused blood alcohol tests, she would have been charged as you point out. I want to hear more about the refusal because she has absolutely no charges of DUI. The only charge she has besides causing the death is running the stop sign. I don't get it either.

Riverman1
84151
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Riverman1 08/16/13 - 07:17 am
0
0
To Austin's Credit

One thing Austin did to his credit is he gave us some background on Heath on the air. She appears to have been an outstanding citizen and has the respect of many people. Thus the opinion by the judge that she was not remorseful is not something that fits. Her words were certainly appropriate and sorrowful. Sometimes mood and affect can be hard to read properly.

SCGirl87
52
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SCGirl87 08/16/13 - 08:14 am
0
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She was charged with DUI and

She was charged with DUI and found not guilty. the evidence in court proved she was not impaired. Anyone with any sense is going to refuse an alcohol test when you have even had half of a beer. I am not sure why that portion keeps being brought up. She was found not guilty for DUI and still sentenced to 20 years...that is a huge problem and that is what needs to be addressed. The conspiracy theories developed and shared about her blood test are neither true nor relevant. As she was found not guilty for DUI. If a jury member did not feel there was enough evidence to convict her for DUI then she should have gotten second degree. However they gave her first degree citing distracted driving because she did not cry enough for them.

Fiat_Lux
15445
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Fiat_Lux 08/16/13 - 01:12 pm
1
0
For the record,

I agree with others about the outrageous length of her sentence given that it clearly was not intentional, and especially if she actually was legally found not guilty of being impaired.

I also wonder, given what she is quoted above as saying, how Judge Annis decided that she was not remorseful.

Perhaps his Honor simply couldn't hear or see it from the Olympian heights upon which he sits.

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