Sept 16, 2015 was a very sad day for those of us who knew Stephanie Collins. Stephanie was a beloved dental hygienist from Cudjoe Key who had worked with Dr. Claude Harris for decades over on South Street.
Stephanie and her friend Ian McNab were walking along South Roosevelt Boulevard that evening, when April Dawn Thomason, came seemingly out of nowhere with her Mercedes-Benz, running over Stephanie, leaving her dead on the sidewalk. McNab had somehow managed to jump out of the way.
Last month a jury found 46-year-old Thomason guilty of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of attempted vehicular manslaughter, assault and leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
Today a Monroe County judge sentenced Thomason to 32 years in prison.
“I’m sorry for everything, most of all the loss of a person’s life,” Thomason said in open court. “I’m so sorry for all the pain I caused.”
Thomason had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. She told police she had been praying, talking to God, and was distracted when the accident occurred. She said she was suffering from severe Xanax withdrawal after she quit using the drug cold turkey after years of abuse. A blood test showed she had no intoxicants in her system at the time of the crash.
Prosecutor Colleen Dunne asked Judge Luis Garcia for a 35-year sentence. Thomason’s public defender, Kevin McCarthy, asked the court to sentence her to five years in prison followed by up to 25 years of probation.
“It was a tragic mistake and an accident,” McCarthy told the judge at the Monroe County Courthouse, “There was no planning of a crime, no scheme.”
Judge Garcia heard testimony today, during the sentencing hearing, about several hardships that Thomason has suffered in life including sexual abuse by one stepfather when she was a young girl and physical abuse by another.
Judge Garcia listened, but had this to say before announcing his sentence, “Your darkest moments pale to the pain and suffering you caused Stephanie Collins and the pain and suffering you caused her family and friends.”