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Harmony Stair, pregnant at the time of the 2011 crash, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and DUI.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Harmony Stair, 33, of Blacksburg, returns to the Montgomery County Courthouse after having DNA collected following her plea hearing Wednesday. Stair pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and DUI second offense.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
CHRISTIANSBURG — A Blacksburg woman who drank before a 2011 vehicle crash that fatally injured her unborn child pleaded no contest Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence. The child died two days after being delivered by Caesarean section.
Harmony Stair, 33, currently pregnant, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 4, after she gives birth. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long accepted her pleas, convicted her of the charges and ruled that she can remain out on her $7,500 secured bond.
According to a summary of the evidence by county Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen, on Dec. 18, 2011, Stair pulled onto U.S. 460 from North Main Street in Blacksburg without yielding to a vehicle. The driver of that vehicle, which was traveling at about 55 mph, had no time to brake and struck the driver’s side of Stair’s car about 1:15 p.m., Jensen said.
The wreck was witnessed by a state police trooper, and Jensen said that if the case had gone to trial the trooper would have testified that Stair had a clear view of oncoming traffic.
Stair had approximately 200 jello shots in her car at the time of the crash, and the vehicle had “a strong odor of alcohol,” Jensen said. Stair required immediate attention for a ruptured diaphragm and other injuries and was airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
At seven and a half months pregnant, Stair had a 0.156 percent blood alcohol level when her blood was drawn at the hospital about an hour after the crash, Jensen said. Because hospitals have a different way of calculating BAC, Jensen said, a toxicologist would have testified that Stair’s BAC would have been about 0.13 percent if tested at the scene of the wreck.
Her unborn child’s heartbeat was closely monitored, and when the heartbeat stopped, doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section about 3:55 p.m. the day of the crash, Jensen said. The child, named Caiden, had a 0.11 percent blood alcohol level after he was delivered.
Caiden was able to make “gasping efforts only” and was put on a ventilator, Jensen said. On Dec. 20, 2011, after Caiden’s health had deteriorated, the family chose to remove him from life support, according to Jensen.
The cause of his death was determined to be blunt force injuries to the head and a complication of placental abruption.
Jensen said Stair later made conflicting voluntary statements to police. She told officers that she had been making Pedialyte jello shots at her friend’s house for a work Christmas party, Jensen said. She at first denied drinking the shots, which contained alcohol, but she later said she had tasted a shot and finally said she drank less than a shot, Jensen said.
Stair’s driving under the influence charge is her second offense. She was convicted of her first DUI in Montgomery County General District Court on May 2, 2007.
Stair’s lawyer, Jimmy Turk, said after the hearing that Stair is engaged to be married to the father of Caiden and her unborn child. She is due Aug. 10, and Turk requested that her sentencing be continued until after the birth.
Stair is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter charge and 12 months in jail for the DUI. County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said after the hearing that the prosecution has not entered into a sentencing agreement with Stair.
Stair was originally granted her secured bond by a magistrate, Pettitt said. When asked if Stair will have to comply with any regulations during her time out on bond, Pettitt said the prosecution’s “records don’t reflect whether any conditions were set. Typically they aren’t if a magistrate sets bond.”
Stair, who kept both hands on her stomach throughout the proceedings, answered Long’s questions but did not make a statement during the hearing.
“It’s a unique case because essentially you don’t have an outside victim,” Turk said after the hearing.
The victims, Turk said, are “essentially the defendant and the father, and neither one of them wanted her to be prosecuted. She certainly didn’t want to be prosecuted.”
Turk said Stair had “clearly consumed alcohol” and chose to enter the no contest pleas because she did not want to present the facts to a jury.
“She lost her own child, and the things that led up to that accident caused the injuries and caused her charges,” Turk said. “A jury would not have liked these facts.”
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