The Stony Brook woman who struck and killed 11-year-old Courtney Sipes last year on Main Street in Smithtown pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident at a scheduled court conference today.
According to the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, Maureen Lambert, 21, was high on heroin when she hit the fifth-grader around 7:00 p.m. on November 24, 2009 with her 2002 Chevy Avalanche. After striking the girl, she continued down the road.
Sipes, who attended Pines Elementary School in Hauppauge, was crossing Main Street near Lawrence Avenue with her mother and brother when she was hit and thrown across the street. She was taken to St. Catherine's of Siena where she was pronounced dead.
Just prior to the accident, the family was at Cornet Music for a music lesson.
At the time, Sipes' distraught mother, Lavena said she couldn't understand how anyone could not come forward.
Lambert, who works as a secretary, turned herself in to police a day after the accident. Her family was tracked down by police, who used surveillance video and a hood ornament found at the scene. Family members convinced Lambert to turn herself in.
Handcuffed, Lambert told reporters she felt "really bad" about what happened and "didn't mean to run away."
Cops administered a drug test and according to the district attorney, toxicology tests showed traces of morphine that is consistent with recent heroin use."
Prior to the accident, Lambert received tickets for unsafe lane changes and tailgating. Her license was suspended in October or 2009 for not paying fines associated with the tickets. Vehicle records show she also had two accidents in 2006.
With the guilty plea, Lambert, who is a graduate of Smithtown Schools, will be sentenced to four to 12 years in prison by Judge Stephen Braslow on December 8.
After Sipes' death, the community came together for Sipes family, which has since created a memorial foundation in their daughter's name.
The new foundation will support children with interests and talents in music and the arts through a cookbook that will be called, Cooking for Courtney: Recipes and Memories from Family and Friends. The foundation has also raised funds with the help of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce's 5K Running of the Bull event, held on October 2.
The Memorial Foundation's website, courtneysipes.org dedicates a page to Sipes' memory. The page touts Sipes' as a "amazingly creative and inspiring young girl," who loved dance, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, singing, acting, art and cooking.
Aside from its mission to inspire children, the Sipes' family is seeking the creation of a new law, called Courtney's Law, that will increase penalties for those that leave the scene of an accident where there is a death or serious injury.
Since the accident, the Department of Transportation, has worked to increase pedestrian safety on Main Street. Among the improvements recently made to the roadway are highly visible crosswalks for pedestrians; increased parking restrictions; additional pavement markings; reduced traffic signal cycle lengths; and increased pedestrian crossing time.
Additional improvements are in the works, including no turn on red signs, new road signs, and the installation of a fence along the south side of Main Street between Lawrence Avenue and Landing Avenue.