Woman gets prison for fatal 2006 wreck

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One of two women charged in a 2006 wreck that killed two people and an unborn child was sentenced Friday to spend the rest of her life in prison.

Tiara Maria Smith, 21, of Augusta, pleaded guilty in a Columbia County courtroom to two counts of murder, feticide, two counts of serious injury by vehicle and fleeing and attempting to elude police as part of a negotiated plea agreement with the district attorney's office.

Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale sentenced Ms. Smith to life in prison for the murder and feticide charges, plus 10 years on the remaining charges.

"Yes, I did take my life for granted, and because I did that, others lost their lives," Ms. Smith said after receiving her sentence.

A felony shoplifting charge, two counts of cruelty to children and six traffic charges were dropped as part of the agreement.

Police say Ms. Smith and co-defendant Nebula McNeely were evading police after shoplifting from the Marshall's store in Mullins Crossing shopping center June 4, 2006. While trying to flee, Ms. Smith drove her Ford Explorer through a red light at the Washington Road intersection of Bobby Jones Expressway, striking a Chrysler Cirrus.

Margaret Patricia Branton, 63, and her son, Lonnie D. Turner, 37, both of Martinez, were killed instantly.

Mr. Turner's pregnant wife, Mary, was in the backseat with the couple's 4-year-old son. Mrs. Turner's baby died as a result of the wreck, but her son received only minor injuries.

"I can't tell you how this has changed my life," said John Branton, Mrs. Branton's husband, who filed a wrongful death civil suit against the two women weeks after the wreck. "I'm just devastated by it."

Ms. Smith's plea agreement requires her to testify against Ms. McNeely, whose case is scheduled to go before a judge Oct. 15.

John Turner, a brother of Mr. Turner and son of Mrs. Branton, also spoke to the judge at Ms. Smith's sentencing. He said that within three months of the wreck that killed his brother and mother, his father died and another brother had a stroke.

"It has turned my whole family upside down," Mr. Turner said. "It took my whole family from me."

Judge Wheale requested that statements from Mr. Branton and Mr. Turner be forwarded to the parole board that might consider Ms. Smith's early release from prison in 14 to 30 years.

"I want them to read what happened to you and your family," Judge Wheale said.

Reach Valerie Rowell at 868-1222, ext. 110, or valerie.rowell@augustachronicle.com.

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emanuelgeech
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emanuelgeech 09/22/07 - 02:23 am
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Good job Judge Wheale.

Good job Judge Wheale.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 09/22/07 - 05:43 am
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Irresponsible actions have

Irresponsible actions have consequences. This is one of the few times I've seen a driver held responsible for foolish actions. I wish it would happen when there wasn't a death involved. That would be a deterrent to a lot of teen driving.

amazed1
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amazed1 09/22/07 - 06:02 am
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not just teens

not just teens patricia,anybody that is so stupid.

shamrock
462
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shamrock 09/22/07 - 07:15 am
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It won't bring anyone back

It won't bring anyone back but it may help some of the survivors in the healing process or maybe recovery would be a better word.

edst4
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edst4 09/22/07 - 08:13 am
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For Tiara Smith and Nebula

For Tiara Smith and Nebula McNeely jail is to good for them. They knew what they were doing was wrong to start off with. They need to be put in car in the middle of an intersection stop all traffic and have an 18 wheeler come at them and hit them head on. Let them see what it was like and make them feel the pain that they have caused others. Why waste my tax dollars on them while they sit in jail.

JohnQPublic
5
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JohnQPublic 09/22/07 - 09:04 am
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All over trying to steal a

All over trying to steal a couple of bucks worth of junk! Too sad and so stupid.

420Time
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420Time 09/22/07 - 09:19 am
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great!!!

great!!!

pofwe
5
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pofwe 09/22/07 - 10:54 am
0
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Stones, anyone?

Stones, anyone?

The Time is Now
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The Time is Now 09/22/07 - 11:38 am
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Doctor spared time in

Doctor spared time in prison
By Sandy Hodson | Staff Writer
Friday, September 08, 2006
The doctor who caused the crash that killed a high school senior received a year of probation Thursday.

Brandon Layton's parents left the Richmond County Superior Courtroom near tears. All they wanted, they told the judge, was some sense of justice for their 18-year-old son.

Mohammad Ali Behzadian, 60, was also in tears after hearing Cathy Layton and Max Layton's abridged victim impact statements. The judge limited the time for each side to speak and announced before the hearing began that the law didn't require a sentencing hearing since Dr. Behzadian was only convicted of misdemeanor offenses.

Last month, a jury acquitted Dr. Behzadian of the most serious charge, first-degree vehicular homicide, for the Feb. 28, 2003, crash on River Watch Parkway that killed Brandon Layton.

Dr. Behzadian was driving on the wrong side of the divided highway when he crashed into Brandon's vehicle.

"He was much more of a man than I could ever be," Mr. Layton said of his son, a star ROTC student at Lakeside High School, a self-taught artist and musician who had an amazing ability to bring out the best in others.

"The depression was unbearable. I just wanted to lay down and die," Ms. Layton said of the days after Brandon's death. The pain is still crushing and nothing seems to dull it, she said.

"Please, please allow us to leave with some justice," Ms. Layton said. She begged the judge to send Dr. Behzadian to jail for as long as possible.

The maximum sentence could have been 24 months, although the Medical College of Georgia researcher spent months in jail when he twice missed court dates.

Ms. Layton had some other suggestions. She asked the judge to require Dr. Behzadian to place flowers at the crash site every Feb. 28, buy a bench for mourners to sit at Brandon's grave, contribute at least $100 annually to her son's scholarship fund and write individual letters of apology to Brandon's immediate family members. He should share their pain and grief, she said.

He has been grieving, said Dr. Behzadian's supporters - the three allowed to speak Thursday. More than a dozen came to court to support him. Dr. Behzadian is kind and gentle and unable to forgive himself for the accident, they said.

"Brandon Layton will never be just another statistic," defense attorney Michael C. Garrett said. Dr. Behzadian will think of Brandon every day."

"I'm very sorry," Dr. Behzadian said, in tears. He wishes he could have traded places with Brandon, the doctor said.

Judge Overstreet said he had thought about Dr. Behzadian's sentencing for a long time. He noted the doctor's lack of prior traffic offenses and his remorse for what was an isolated incident, a "tragic accident."

The judge said he understood the Layton family's grief, but he would not impose any of Ms. Layton's suggestions.

"It's not my place to do dramatic things ... It's just not me."

Judge Overstreet sentenced Dr. Behzadian under the First Offender Act. If he successfully completes the year's probation and pays the $1,000 fine, the second-degree vehicular homicide and traffic offense he is convicted of will be erased from his record.

The Time is Now
0
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The Time is Now 09/22/07 - 11:40 am
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What's wrong with this

What's wrong with this picture?! Not saying she should get probation but how can one person get life and another person get probation. Isn't a life worth the same across the board? Just asking.....

t of i
25
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t of i 09/22/07 - 12:12 pm
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Intent, sfs. In one instance

Intent, sfs. In one instance a crime was committed and the perpetrators were tying to elude the police. In the other instance the guy was driving on the wrong side of the road.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 12:25 pm
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exactly t of i. No priors a

exactly t of i. No priors a respected doctor.. remorseful.. The other chik was a pathetic lowlife stealing, running fromt he cops, driving erratically killed 3 people and even the child in her car was not even in a car seat period but luckily survived. This woman had tons of negligence and from what I remember she had no where near the remorse after the accident as she did right before sentencing!!

sassygalady30
1
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sassygalady30 09/22/07 - 12:44 pm
0
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i seen the accident every lil

i seen the accident every lil time she gets she needs she never needs to be in the streets again believe me it isnt something anyone wants to see it was the worse every...she should get the chair

fuggie
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fuggie 09/22/07 - 12:55 pm
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She goes to prison for

She goes to prison for vehicular homicide and serves her time for the crime, even though it seems rather harsh, but district attorney Danny Craig's daughter doen't get a slap on the wrist for her crime of vehicular homicide. Is she still in a coma, or has the good citizens of the CSRA commuted her life sentence because of who her father is. Let the church say "hmmm?"

justus4
99
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justus4 09/22/07 - 02:20 pm
0
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The problem is sense of
Unpublished

The problem is sense of reality. "Stand" nailed it with that article about the doctor. Whites are not going to be honest when it comes to the matter of race. Especially, those in black robes. This issue will be to the detriment of the country because most minorities do not respect the "law", because whites have a history of changing it to fit their needs. The modern trick is to have some criminal history, which shows a pattern. So, they go after blk kids for anything to get the process going. Notice the writers that mentioned Tiara had priors and the Doc had a clean record. Using history as a guide, whites can not be trusted to administer justice to people of color.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 02:24 pm
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fuggie where is that article

fuggie where is that article if you can find it. I couldnt find it.. tooo much comes up with the name craig lol. thanks if you can.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 02:30 pm
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That isn't true. justus I

That isn't true. justus I was waiting to see if anyone mentioned if the doctor was drinking or what. I am the hardest on drunk drivers. But the DR isnt white so I really don't know what you are talking about lol. I don't know the story of the DR but I will go look it up.. becuase not just priors but the reason for the accident that killed. One was during the commission of a crime the ohter may have been a medical reason jus a stupid driver or what.. there is a difference. Let me find that story and I'll get back to you! I am against people not being punished stiffly when they should be.. I just have a problem with those complaining a criminal especially a repeat offender should be slapped on the wrist so he can kill someone next time. There is a difference in a accident and a deliberate criminal act resulting in death. Dui and Fleeeing the scene of a crime and both resulting in death are one in the same in my eyes.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 02:34 pm
0
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Well I read it and given the

Well I read it and given the fact the prosecution could not prove the dui part as the cause of him making the wrong turn, it has to be viewed as an accident scince it wasn't proved dui beyond a shadow of a doubt. If he was dui and it was proved I'd be happy to protest especially against repeat dui offenders. But unless you can prove the chik wasn't the one who was stealing from marshalls and fled away causing the accident and it was just an inncent woman who wasnt paying attention and ran a red light. I think the sentence was fair.

marien
28
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marien 09/22/07 - 03:57 pm
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Standforsomething I agree

Standforsomething I agree with you let the punishment fit the crime this man should have also gotten life in prision or something. Why do some people get harsher punishment than others, yet the crimes could be of the same nature.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 04:48 pm
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life for making a wrong turn?

life for making a wrong turn? I thought That is what is called an accident. Unless he was intoxicated, which they did not prove he was, It wouldn't warrant a life sentence. It not the same nature. She commited multiple crimes when she had the accident, had priors, put her own family in jeopardy and destroyed a family and 3 lives to steal from marshalls and not get caught. There is a difference.

Knight Mom
2
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Knight Mom 09/22/07 - 05:50 pm
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fuggie, obviously you don't

fuggie, obviously you don't know what happened to Craig's daughter. She paid a far worse price than being placed in prison. You should do a bit of research before you slap that rightous paintbrush around.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 05:59 pm
0
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I still cant find that story

I still cant find that story .. at least tell me what year .. how long ago something. lol

timereader
0
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timereader 09/22/07 - 06:42 pm
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Thank-You Judge! This woman

Thank-You Judge! This woman destroyed a family all becaues she wanted to steal. But she got caught! I hope she never see's a moments peace.

The Time is Now
0
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The Time is Now 09/22/07 - 07:25 pm
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Simply FYI for some

Simply FYI for some posters:

Victim moves to Atlanta hospital

District Attorney Danny Craig's daughter Sarah, 19, has been moved to a private rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta to be treated for injuries she suffered in a car crash last month on Walton Way.

Ms. Craig remained in critical but stable condition as Medical College of Georgia Hospital discharged her Monday and an ambulance took her to Shepherd Center in Buckhead.

A statement released Monday by the Craig family said that she is improving and that they are ``concentrating one hundred percent on Sarah's recovery.''

``We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the Augusta community, and we appreciate the many cards and letters we have received that give us strength and hope. ...'' the statement said. ``Thank you for keeping Sarah in your thoughts and prayers.''

The not-for-profit Shepherd Center specializes in the treatment of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

Ms. Craig has been hospitalized since April 10, when her car pulled into the path of a pickup near Lake Aumond retention pond. Her front-seat passenger, Lydia Guntharp, 17, of Hephzibah, died the next day at MCG.

The Time is Now
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The Time is Now 09/22/07 - 07:39 pm
0
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I understand that society is

I understand that society is supposed to know the laws and adhere to them but even people of different nationalities that decide to live by our culture should know how to drive when getting behind the wheel of a car and know the rules of the road. Just because you don't know the right way to go on a road does not justify going the wrong way. The police always say "ignorance of the law is no excuse." I'm not saying this lady shouldn't be punished severely, but I just think others should be punished as well. There is a midpoint between life and probation.

t of i
25
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t of i 09/22/07 - 07:57 pm
0
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SFS, it wasn't justified. He

SFS, it wasn't justified. He IS being punished. And it appears his greatist punishment is coming from himself. I wonder if the driver eluding the police has similar remorse over the several deaths she caused.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/22/07 - 08:39 pm
0
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SFS The girl in this article

SFS The girl in this article was a repeat offender criminal who killed 3 people during the commission of multiple crimes. Its sad that a stupid person who doesn't pay attention to their driving kills someone.. but it is not comparable to what this Theif did. I don't understand why people can not comprehend this. Do you really not understand or do you chose to be blind about it to have some reason to cry of injust sentences, racism, or w/e else you use to defend criminals.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 09/22/07 - 09:45 pm
0
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Another feature of this

Another feature of this tragedy is that killing someone-- even accidentally--during the commission of a felony is MURDER, by legal definition. What Dr. Behzadian did was a driving error, and he was charged with vehicular homicide because the result was so awful. Sarah Craig, as brilliant as she once was, is not competent now to stand trial for anything, and what she did was simply a driving error resulting from the inexperience of youth. Some of you are heartless vultures with all the discretion and discernment of a turnip. You aren't just low class, you're no class.

pointstoponder
161
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pointstoponder 09/22/07 - 10:53 pm
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Fuggie, just to set the

Fuggie, just to set the record straight, I sure Danny Craig would be overjoyed if he had the option of prosecuting his daughter. Unfortunately she is still in a coma.

law
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law 09/23/07 - 04:47 am
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I am so tired of people

I am so tired of people throwing up the race card, if people would live the way they are suppose to and mind their own business, race would never be an issue.

Everytime someone doesn't get their way guess what...a race card is thrown....

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