A 9-year-old girl was awakened from a sound sleep on Oct. 12, 2009, to be told by her grandfather: “Your mother was hit by a drunk driver. She died.”
The grandfather, Rick Dettman, addressed the drunken driver, Lisa Ann Smith, during her sentencing Thursday afternoon in a Scott County courtroom.
“I forgive you, but it’s not as easy to forgive your actions on Oct. 12,” Dettman said. “You chose to drive drunk. You’re playing Russian roulette with everyone on the road.”
Smith, 44, of LeClaire, Iowa, crashed into a vehicle driven by Samantha Martin of East Moline on U.S. 67 at Canal Shore Drive near LeClaire.
Martin was a mother, a daughter, a best friend, a life coach, a grandmother, a church volunteer, a sister, a hair dresser and a good person, according to family members who watched as Judge Mark Cleve handed Smith a 25-year prison sentence.
During the hearing, they all spoke of the nightmares, the grudges and the anger they’ve struggled through before finally arriving at forgiveness.
“Because of you, we’ll never be a whole family again,” Martin’s mother, Sandra Dettman, told Smith.
Martin’s son, Bobby Martin, who was 21 years old and on U.S. Navy active duty in the Gulf of Oman when the accident occurred, couldn’t attend the sentencing. His statement was read aloud.
“I can bring myself to forgiveness,” he wrote, “but I can never forget the tragedy.”
Smith, struggling through tears, responded.
“If I could trade my life for hers, I’d do so without a moment’s hesitation,” she said. “I’ll do everything I can to be worthy of forgiveness. I can’t take it back. I’m so sorry.”
Smith pleaded guilty last month to vehicular homicide, operating while intoxicated, a Class B felony.
Smith’s blood-alcohol content was .303 when it was measured 2 1/2 hours after the accident, Scott County Attorney Mike Walton has said. The legal limit is .08.
She also was convicted of operating while intoxicated, third offense, stemming from an incident on Sept. 22, 2009. She had her 4-year-old son in the car with her when, police said, she was swerving “all over the road and into the opposite lane” before stopping near Valley Drive and Spencer Road in Bettendorf.
Her five-year prison term on that charge will run at the same time as her vehicular homicide sentence.
“Alcoholism is an excuse, not a reason,” said Richelle Anderson, Martin’s sister.