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Driver Gets 12 Years for Hit-and-Run Death of Courtney Sipes

Judge also denies Stony Brook resident Maureen Lambert early release option for the November 2009 accident that killed the 11-year-old.

The Stony Brook woman who to vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of the accident that killed 11-year-old Courtney Sipes was sentenced Wednesday morning to four to 12 years in prison, the maximum for the charges she faced.

Judge Stephen Braslow said he will recommend Maureen Lambert not be released early, citing her years of drug use and telling her he did not feel sorry for her.

"Don't delude yourself that this was an accident," Braslow said.

Lambert, 21, admitted to using heroin before getting behind the wheel of her 2002 Chevy Avalanche on Nov. 24, 2009, the night she struck Courtney Sipes on Main Street in Smithtown and fled the scene. Lambert cried as she read an apology to the Sipes family in a packed Riverhead courtroom.

"I wish I could trade places with your family, because I never meant for this to happen," she said.

Her apology followed nearly half an hour of emotional reflections from Courtney's immediate family, during which mother Lavena Sipes called for the judge to impose the maximum sentence and said even that "will never be enough" for the family to feel justice had been served.

"You recklessly chose to take heroin and get in the driver's seat of an SUV," Lavena Sipes said. "The life you took was beyond precious, beyond gifted, beyond special."

The case has not only spurred traffic safety improvements on Main Street in Smithtown, but it has also drawn attention to the rise in heroin use in Long Island's middle-class and affluent neighborhoods. After the sentencing, Jeffrey Kimmel, an attorney representing the Sipes family, called for community solutions, more parental attention, and increased police involvement in the fight against heroin.

"We do need to come together as a community to address this epidemic," he said, calling Lambert's case a "wake-up call to parents to be a little introspective ... and ask earnestly, 'Is my child alright?'"

Kimmel also said the family has started a foundation in Courtney's memory and is pushing for a change in the laws concerning drivers who leave the scene of an accident. According to Kimmel, a loophole exists which gives drivers who flee the scene while under the influence of drugs or alcohol the chance to sober up and possibly avoid substance-related charges.

Lambert waited 26 hours to turn herself in following the accident. A drug test administered by police showed signs of recent heroin use. Records also showed Lambert had multiple traffic violations and a recent license suspension.

Lambert's mother left the courtroom in tears on Wednesday and did not speak to reporters.

Robert DeMarzo December 08, 2010 at 08:22 PM
This is heartbreaking for all involved. Part of you screams out that Lambert should serve a life sentence that 12 years is not enough. Another part says that no matter what two lives and two families have been destroyed, shattered forever. Let's hope we never see another incident like this again. You hope something good will come of all this but wonder just want it will be.
Makayla December 31, 2010 at 05:22 AM
Courtney was my best friend why should this have to happen to a bright 11 year old? LOVE U COURTNEY
cathy January 03, 2011 at 10:40 AM
Wouldn't it be more productive for this driver to do community service for the next 20 years? Wouldn't it be more productive for her to go out and talk to children in schools about the dangers of heroin? Do you really think she wanted to kill this 11 year old child? I know alot of you will say she did heroin and then got behind the wheel on purpose, do you really think sthat he wanted to be a heroin addict? Where is our law enforcement that allows heroin to be brought into our communities? The pain of the young girls family that died is unimaginable but at least the family has the support of family friends and the community. The drivers family has shame, embarassment and the loss of this young womans future.
Sarah July 28, 2012 at 06:14 PM
This was very shocking. I had no idea how fast these things could happen. As a person from her elementary, its very suprising. Though it's sad, Courtney is with god.

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