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Driver gets 1-2 years in hit-and-run fatal

David McKinney still is haunted by the night his sister-in-law was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Interstate 79.

"She said she knew she hit someone, so why would you take off and run after that?" McKinney, of Cabot, Butler County, said Thursday after learning that Melissa Dawn Cralton had been sentenced to 1 to 2 years in prison in the death of Cheryl McKinney. "And why would they let her off like this?"

Cralton, 24, of Morgantown, W.Va., pleaded guilty to hitting Cheryl McKinney, 47, on June 24, 2005, on I-79 in Cranberry. Cralton was driving in the car with several friends as Cheryl McKinney walked on the highway to retrieve her dead basset hound, Rocky. Cralton told police she swerved to avoid what appeared to be a deer carcass in the right lane, before her car hit McKinney.

Cralton told police she wanted to stop because she "had a bad feeling," but a passenger told her to keep going, court documents state.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge George Hancher also sentenced Cralton to two years' probation and ordered her to pay $2,907 in restitution, fees and fines. She will receive credit for 86 days already served on a separate sentence.

McKinney and her husband, Howard "Donnie" McKinney, 51, were living out of their Chrysler LeBaron convertible and had pulled into a weigh station to sleep when their dog broke loose and ran onto the road.

Howard McKinney has been in ill health since his wife's death, David McKinney said. He is hospitalized with cirrhosis of the liver, and as of yesterday afternoon still had not learned of Cralton's sentencing.

"This is going to make him sicker," David McKinney, 45, said of his brother. "He thought for sure she would get 5 to 10."

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