Man who caused Unum employee's death learns punishment
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Charlotte Berry wrote out much of what she had planned to say at the sentencing hearing for the man who ran over and killed her daughter two days before Christmas 2009.
Even so, she broke down for a moment when she confronted Jeremy Lane, 26, at the defense table Monday morning.
"Jeremy, you'll never know what a terrible change you brought in our lives," she says.
"You cannot imagine telling an 11-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy that their Mom will never be back."
Two months ago, Lane was convicted of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct for the death of Susan Berry Wood, 44. The jury also convicted him of filing a false report and leaving the scene, to which he had pleaded guilty before trial. He was found not guilty of driving under the influence.
"I've seen him want to do better, and to live with purpose," Lane's mother, Janice Bond, says.
Bond told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole that her son no longer is the hyperactive, self-centered high school dropout he knew before Susan Wood's death. He's earned his Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) while in jail, and is trying to reconnect with the two young sons, for whom he'd once refused to pay child support, she says.
But, under questioning by prosecutors, she would admit that he had lied to her about the incident, the day Wood died.
"Did you believe him," she was asked.
"At the time, yes," Bond answers.
"I think that's horrible," Judge Poole says moments later.
Judge Poole rules that Lane's lies, his decision to leave Wood to die, and prior convictions for DUI, public intoxication and speeding, mean that Lane is deserving of prison time rather than probation.
He gives Lane the maximum sentences for vehicular homicide (6 years) and for filing a false report (4 years), but allows Lane to serve them concurrently. He gives Lane another year for fleeing the scene, making the cumulative sentence seven years. With credit for jail time served, Lane would have about five-and-one-half years remaining, with first eligibility for parole in June-July 2013.
"I had the mindset today that it was gonna be somewhere in the middle and he (Lane) got a little bit more than the middle," Wood's husband Matthew says.
Wood is hopeful that Lane's claim of change is sincere. But he maintains that justice, and a chance at forgiveness, will come only when Lane accepts full responsibility for his wife's death.
"I was raised to be taught you're a person of your word, a person of actions," he says.
"And yet, we've never heard from him on that level."
"There will be opportunities for face-to-face meetings in the future," Lane's mother says.
Bond tells Eyewitness News that her son never took the stand, either at trial or sentencing, for fear that prosecutors would attack his statements and twist his words.
But she says she's making her own peace with Wood's family.
"Because of our faith we believe we feel like we are one family, not just two families," she says.
"We are connected through God."
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)—Jeremy Lane, the man who hit and killed Susan Wood while she was walking to work, will spend seven years behind bars.
Judge Don Poole sentenced Lane Monday stating Lane's history argued against probation or an alternative sentence and that he is at high risk for drugs and alcohol.
Friends and family members took the stand in support of Lane, offering testimony of change and regret.
Members of Susan Wood's family also took the stand, where they reflected on life without the woman known as a mother, sister, and daughter since the tragedy.
Lane was convicted in March of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, and filing a false report for the December 2009 incident.
He was not found guilty of driving under the influence because a blood-alcohol test was never conducted.
Lane will be eligible for parole in 2013.