There were tears and feelings of regret in a Nashville courtroom Friday as a 22-year-old woman accepted a plea deal involving a deadly car crash.
Police said Rebecca Benson was driving the wrong way while under the influence of alcohol before colliding into a vehicle driven by Steffanie Leonard, 29, of Franklin, TN, on Feb. 22.
Leonard, who was on her way to work, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash occurred about 4 a.m. between Wedgewood Avenue and the Interstate 40 interchange.
Benson's blood alcohol was three times the legal limit at the time of the wreck.
An officer responding to the crash said Benson was confused and thought she was riding in a taxi cab.
Leonard's family members got to have their say after the sentencing, and there was hardly a dry eye in the general sessions courtroom as Benson heard the family share their feelings of loss.
"I don't have my sister. Instead, I see my parents with so much pain in their eyes because their child is gone," said sister Rebekah Leonard.
"Ms. Benson, my daughter never came back. I'll never hear her laughter," said mother Marti Leonard.
"When my dad called to tell me that it was my sister who had been killed in that accident, I was trying to get home to my family. And then having to tell my daughter that her Aunt Steffanie was gone," said sister Jennifer Leonard.
The judge Friday accepted a plea bargain in Benson's vehicular homicide case. The charge was amended to reckless endangerment, and Benson will serve eight years of supervised probation following two years in jail.
The plea agreement stipulates that she will have to serve every day of the two-year sentence, and there is no possibility for jail time reduction.
"We have seen a horrible, horrible loss of two women's lives. One on the highway, and one here in court," said defense attorney David Raybin.
"I know that no sentence you ever serve will take the place of what happened to Steffanie, but I do know the one thing you can do is make a change in your life and to live your life in a way that would honor her memory," Jennifer Leonard said.
Benson wrote a three-page letter to the Leonard family, expressing her regret about what happened that night.
Marti Leonard said she appreciated it.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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