SOUTH BEND – A judge sentenced a 24-year-old woman on Monday to 12 years in prison for a car accident that killed a South Bend woman who was sleeping inside her own home.
Erica McCaffery Oliver admitted to drinking, smoking pot and speeding just before the April crash happened near the intersection of Corby and Twyckenham.
The judge heard from Oliver, her husband and the victim’s two children before he sentenced her.
At one point when Oliver’s husband told the judge Barbara Knapp's family was telling a "sob story," Knapp’s daughter, Melissa Shea, stormed out of the courtroom because she was so upset.
Both Shea and her older brother Matt Szymanski told the judge they were shocked by the lack of remorse they’ve seen from Oliver since the crash. Since then, she’s been in and out of court for the case, and Knapp’s kids said she never said sorry and they’ve never seen her shed a tear for what she did.
“I just look at the human element of it,” Szymanski explained to reporters after the sentencing. “If I were in her shoes and I had done something like that, I can't imagine not saying ‘I'm sorry’ or not reaching out in some way, shape or form to say 'I feel terrible for what I've done and I know I could never repay you for it but just know I'm terribly sorry for it.’”
But Oliver’s attorney explained he advised her not to approach the family because anything she said could be used against her in court. She read a brief statement Monday morning, saying she “made a huge mistake.
“I never meant to hurt anyone and I am very sorry. I have written dozens of letters, but I can’t find the right words to say. I know sorry won’t bring back Mrs. Knapp,” she continued.
“She’s not a murderer,” Shea said after the sentencing. “Yeah, she’s probably sorry, somewhere. How much? I don’t know.”
Szymanski, 31 and Shea, 29 also told the judge about the hours after their mother’s death. While trying to digest what happened to their mom, they also had to keep friends and family members posted at her home because looters were trying to steal from inside.
The home was demolished shortly after the crash because it was so badly damaged, and both kids said they lost a lot of precious family heirlooms and mementos because of that damage.
Even though the judge sentenced Oliver to 12 years, she’ll likely only serve a minimum of 6 because of good time credit and other factors.