LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The woman whose drinking and driving led to the deaths of a mother and her nine year old daughter will spend only one year in prison-- if she stays out of trouble and complies with all the requirements of her probation.
The judge who imposed the sentence decided to show mercy because Heather Alford appears to have proven she's turned over a new leaf.
It was a crash so horrific that even now some emergency responders struggle to cope with the memory. A nine year old girl-- burned alive in the 2004 wreck caused by a drunk driver. Little Holly Fontenot was dead at the scene and her mother Colette died later. Husband and father Robert Fontenot suffered severe injuries but survived-- after Heather Alford got drunk and drove.
Ritchie opted to , in his words show mercy, by sentencing her to ten years all but one of which is suspended. That means if she complies with various conditions she'll serve only one year in prison and pay fines of about $10,000 court costs.
Defense attorney Tom Lorenizi pleaded for mercy for Alford, who had once been a shining star in school and golf. "I think the judge should be commended in this particular case because every sentence is supposed to reflect the facts of the case but also be particularized to the defendant. In this case Heather Alford has led an absolutely exemplary life."
She will also devote at least 120 eight hour days to community service to include teaching others how drinking and driving destroys lives. Lorenzi says she will appear on tv down the road, though she wouldn't submit to an interview while at the courthouse today. Said Lorenzi, "She's more than willing to do so. It's just that today to ask her to do an interview right now we frankly felt was not being respectful of the Fontenot family." Lorenzi also said, "Her level of remorse has never been equaled in my experience in 35 years and this is a person who is committed to doing absolutely everything she can to make amends for a horrible accident that she did in fact cause."
Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth hoped for more jail time but understands the judge's thinking concerning Alford. "He showed extreme mercy in her case. She's had a track record of six years since this offense to do things which would indicate that she has changed her ways."
Alford is being allowed to wait until Monday to report to jail.
The criminal case against Alford was delayed to help the victims in their civil case - alleging a defect in the vehicle which burst into flames. A settlement has been reached but it is sealed, so no details are available.