CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A judge sentenced Leah Walton to at least 31 months in jail Tuesday after a jury found her guilty of running over two women on a Charlotte sidewalk two years ago.
The August 22, 2010 incident killed one nurse and seriously injured another on Craig Avenue. The jury convicted Walton of involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injuries.
Walton will spend at least 31-47 months in jail, must forfeit her car, pay $30,000 in restitution
and pay a $18,000 fine to cover initial medical costs toward the surviving victim.
In closing arguments Monday, attorneys on both sides acknowledged that Walton was troubled. That was true even before Susan Karabulut was killed and Lisa McIe was critically injured.
"How do you not see Lisa and Susan while you're on the sidewalk before you hit them," said Prosecutor Gabrielle Macon.
"I was happy that we got a little bit of justice on this earth and she is going to have to clean up her act," said McIe, who now gets around in a wheelchair because of the accident.
The sentence was one of the toughest the law allows but it did not satisfy Karabulut’s sister.
"In an ideal world I'd like to have my sister back, that's my ideal world. I don't know what Leah Walton is getting. I don’t know, rot in jail for all I (care). That would be fine for me," said Joyce Robinson.
Isabel Fabrizio is Karabulut’s mother. She saw Walton testify and didn’t believe the tears.
"She's destroyed families and all she thinks about is 'I got to go to jail because I hit two ladies'...Life means nothing to her. She'll do it again," said Fabrizio.
Fabrizio stormed out of the courtroom when Walton’s mother asked the judge for mercy.
"No matter how much time it will never be justice for my daughter. I have to live with that and anybody who has lost a child or buried a child knows where I’m coming from. They feel the same pain I feel," said the grandmother.
Macon, meanwhile, told jurors before sentencing that Walton was under the influence, disagreeing with her testimony that she was looking for a cigarette when the accident occurred.
"I contend to you she wasn't looking for cigarettes. What was found in the driver’s floorboard of that car...it was a prescription bottle, but she didn't have a prescription for what was inside," said the prosecutor.
Defense Attorney George Laughrum told jurors that Walton deserved to be punished, but not for involuntary manslaughter.
"She has never, from day one, minute one, week one, until Friday morning denied her responsibility in this case," said Laughrum.
He said that prosecutors’ efforts to say that Walton was high conflicts with officers who testified that they didn’t think she was under the influence.
"State says ‘Well it had to be there.’ They are going against their own witnesses...It was in her system but it was not affecting her," said the attorney.