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Sentence in fatal DUI crash rings hollow for family of Jeannette woman

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Friends and family of a Jeannette woman killed two years ago in an alcohol-fueled car crash told a Westmoreland County judge they took no solace from the state prison sentence imposed on the driver.

Lauren Thompson, 30, was killed on June 23, 2011, when a Jeep driven by Lindsay Halliday, 32, of Mt. Pleasant veered off Route 819 in Hempfield at the intersection of Simpson Road, hit a fence, spun around, crashed into a fire hydrant and rolled over on its roof.

“Lauren was my only child. Her loss leaves a void of bottomless depth. There will be no closure. I have a deep, profound, hallowing emptiness,” Stuart Thompson said.

Halliday pleaded guilty in February to vehicular homicide while driving under the influence at the time of the crash.

Police said her blood alcohol level was 0.234 percent. A motorist is considered intoxicated at 0.08 percent in Pennsylvania.

Judge Debra Pezze sentenced Halliday on Thursday to a mandatory sentence of three to six years in prison.

“To say I'm sorry is not enough to show how I feel about this. There is nothing I can do to fix it,” Halliday said.

She told the judge she and Thompson were friends who recently reunited and were enjoying a night out. The two women were driving to see horses owned by Halliday, she told Pezze.

Police said immediately after the crash, Halliday claimed she swerved to avoid something that had run out on the road and she lost control of her Jeep when her attention was briefly diverted as she tried to change a compact disc, according to court records.

Defense attorney Pat Thomassey argued that Thompson and Halliday both made poor decisions that night. Thomassey said Thompson was drunk and was not wearing a seat belt.

“Because my client (Halliday) had a seat belt on, she was not hurt,” Thomassey said.

But Thompson's family and friends said they blame Halliday for their loss.

“She (Halliday) walked away without a scratch. None of us in our family will ever be the same,” said Thompson's mother, Karen Highlands. “I wanted to try to find a way to forgive (Halliday), but I am now torn. If Lindsay hadn't come into Lauren's life that night, we wouldn't have had to plan her funeral with finances we put aside for her wedding.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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