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Drunk driver in fatal crash gets 45-day sentence

Posted: May 9, 2012 - 11:05pm

FAIRBANKS — A Nenana woman who pleaded guilty to driving drunk before a fatal crash has been sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Edna Hancock, 57, was sentenced Tuesday in Fairbanks District Court.

Assistant District Attorney David Buettner said Hancock was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol instead of manslaughter because the state could not prove she caused a 2010 crash on the Parks Highway that killed a Dillingham woman.

“Because we couldn’t prove causation beyond a reasonable doubt, we couldn’t proceed with the manslaughter charge,” Buettner said. “We have a pretty good idea that she was the cause of the collision, but having a pretty good idea is different than being able to prove it.”

Hancock’s blood alcohol content after the crash was recorded at .279 percent, more than three times higher than the .08 percent at which an Alaska driver is presumed to be intoxicated.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports on Dec, 21, 2010, Hancock was behind the wheel of a 1993 Chevy Suburban that collided with a sedan near Ester, a Parks Highway community south of Fairbanks.

A passenger in the sedan, Andrea Ruby, 28, died at the scene.

Hancock and the driver of the sedan, Jerry Hunt, 24, of Dillingham, were seriously injured and flown to Anchorage for treatment.

Alaska State Troopers used a search warrant to obtain Hancock’s medical records, which revealed the presence of alcohol and marijuana in her blood.

At the sentencing hearing, Hancock told District Court Judge Jane Kauvar that she swerved to avoid a moose before the crash and that Hunt’s car had crossed the center line.

“I really don’t want to go on record saying that I was the cause of that lady’s death. What I want to know is what was he (Hunt) doing in the middle of the road?” Hancock said.

Kauvar sentenced Hancock to the maximum allowed for a first-time drunk driver, 365 days, but suspended 320 days. Hancock was ordered not to drink alcohol during 10 years of probation and to submit to alcohol testing. A violation could mean serving suspended time.

The judge fined her $1,500.

Kauvar told Hancock the sentence was a fair.

“Yes, it’s long. This was your first DUI and if no one had been hurt or killed, obviously you’d be doing a lot less,” Kauvar said. “It’s the risk you run, though, when you drive highly intoxicated. There is somebody else in Anchorage who drove with the same blood alcohol level and someone died — that person is doing 20 years in jail. So, you know, I think that you can look at it all and you need to understand. Your responsibility is to be on that road, under a .08, and sober enough to actually be driving a vehicle.”

Buettner said the sentence was substantial.

“She got 45 days in jail, which is 15 times more than a typical first offender, but that reflects the fact that she’s a .279, that reflects the fact that she killed somebody in the process,” he said. “Compared to getting a manslaughter sentence it’s a light sentence, but compared to what another typical first DUI offender would get, it’s a very severe sentence.”

A 57-year-old Nenana woman convicted of driving while intoxicated in a fatal crash has been sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Assistant District Attorney David Buettner says Edna Hancock was charged with driving under the influence instead of manslaughter because the state couldn’t prove she caused the Parks Highway crash.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/LO4fZU) a sport utility vehicle driven by Hancock on Dec. 21, 2010, collided with a sedan near Ester, killing a passenger in the car, 28-year-old Andrea Ruby of Dillingham.

Hancock and the sedan driver, 24-year-old Jerry Hunt, were seriously injured.

Medical records indicated Hancock’s blood alcohol content was .279 percent.

Hancock told District Court Judge Jane Kauvar (caw-VAR’) she swerved to avoid a moose and that Hunt’s car was in the middle of the road.

___

Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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