Woman gets 2-year term for manslaughter in fatal Windsor car crash | Crime & Courts
In a tense, hour-long hearing on Thursday, Enfield Superior Court Judge Howard Scheinblum sentenced a Hartford woman to two years in prison for a 2012 drunken driving accident in Windsor that led to the death of her friend.
The woman, Shayna McGarrah, 26, had been driving her friend, Shamonique Harvey, home after a night of heavy celebratory drinking and dancing when she fell asleep at the wheel, causing the crash that resulted in Harvey’s death on Nov. 17, 2012.
Harvey, of Hartford, died a day before her 23rd birthday.
McGarrah initially denied she was driving the car at the time of the accident, claiming instead that Harvey was at the wheel.
McGarrah pleaded no contest in September to second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle. In pleading no contest, McGarrah neither admits nor denies committing the crime charged. Once the judge accepted the plea, however, she was found guilty. A no contest plea cannot be used against the defendant in a lawsuit.
In the plea agreement, McGarrah faced up to two years in prison, although her lawyer had the right to argue for a lesser sentence.
Scheinblum gave McGarrah a seven-year sentence, suspended after two years in prison, and three years of probation, during which time she must reimburse Harvey’s family for the more than $30,000 they spent for her funeral expenses.
The courtroom was heavily divided during the hearing. Harvey’s family sobbed and spoke fiercely against McGarrah’s actions before and after the accident. McGarrah and her family remained stoic, though when McGarrah finally addressed Harvey’s family, tears streamed down her face.
Supervisory State’s Attorney Christopher Parakilas and defense lawyer Rebecca Paolino did not speak at length during the hearing.
Parakilas, however, did emphasize that while the act of manslaughter was, in and of itself, grounds for years in prison, the fact that McGarrah lied to police made her case even more serious.
“There were certain external factors, unfortunate aggravating circumstances, that led us to this offer…She was not forthcoming…She gave troopers bogus information,” Parakilas explained.
Harvey’s family and friends echoed Parakilas’ denunciation of McGarrah’s actions and her dishonesty.
Iesha Canty, Harvey’s sister, described the victim as “a beautiful, feisty, and exciting young lady.” Harvey’s death, already a horrendous experience for Canty, was made worse by the comportment of McGarrah and her family.
“McGarrah has been disrespectful, threatening, and mocking throughout this process…Give us justice for Shamonique!” Canty said.
For Canty, justice meant giving McGarrah the maximum sentence allowed.
Kameron Davis, Harvey’s cousin, read aloud a poem she wrote about Harvey. In it, she referred to McGarrah, saying, “We got attitude when respect was due.”
Lastly, Raynette Woodard, Harvey’s mother, spoke of her daughter through her tears.
“She was my best friend, my only daughter. She was my everything. I will never see her graduate college, get married, or have the granddaughter she promised me,” Woodard said.
Paolino spoke briefly of McGarrah’s accomplishments, saying she’s a 26-year-old woman with no previous criminal history, a high school graduate who attended college, a person who’s always worked and has never been fired.
“She helps others, she doesn’t do drugs, she’s not an alcoholic, she’s active in her church, and she’s heartbroken,” Paolino said.
McGarrah apologized to Harvey’s family and defended her actions after Harvey’s death, explaining that she was ashamed, scared, and traumatized.
Scheinblum, before meeting out his sentence, said, “I have to admit that the defense comes in front of me with no criminal history. Most of the time when someone drives under the influence, they just make a terrible mistake, which she did. But her behavior while the case was pending absolutely disgusts me.”
According to the affidavit supporting McGarrah’s arrest, events happened this way: around 3 am on Nov. 17, 2012, state police and the Windsor Fire Department responded to reports of an accident on the left side of Exit 38 on Interstate 91 in Windsor. There they found a car on its roof.
State police observed tire marks in the road, indicating the car hit multiple arrow signs where the road turned. After approaching the car, state police found Harvey hanging out of the passenger side window. Her neck was bent backwards and her head was partially pinned under the roof of the car. A paramedic pronounced her dead at the scene.
McGarrah was found outside the car crying hysterically. She was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford where she told medical staff that she was the passenger and not the driver in the accident which turned out to be a lie.
In interviews with state police, McGarrah said that on the night of the accident, she, Harvey, and McGarrah’s sister had gone to a club in Springfield as part of celebrations for Harvey’s upcoming birthday, which was Nov. 18. The car they were driving was registered to McGarrah’s aunt.
The women were out dancing and drinking, and around 1:45 am McGarrah drove back to Hartford to drop off the other woman, who was Harvey’s cousin.
McGarrah said she recalled driving toward I-91 north but fell asleep before they got onto the highway. The next thing she remembered was a loud bang and the car rolling over. She said neither she nor Harvey were wearing seatbelts.