PLATTSMOUTH – A Grand Island woman will spend at least 42 months in prison for her involvement in a Cass County car crash that killed a Nebraska woman.
Mandy M. MacDonald, 30, appeared in Cass County District Court Tuesday afternoon for sentencing on two charges. MacDonald pled no contest in late November to one Class I misdemeanor count of motor vehicle homicide. She also pled no contest to one Class IIIA felony of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury or death.
Nebraska State Patrol troopers arrested MacDonald May 31 after she drove away from an accident scene on Interstate 80. Witnesses reported MacDonald was driving erratically in the westbound lanes of I-80 just before 6:30 p.m. Her vehicle entered the median and then collided with another westbound vehicle after coming out of the median. The collision caused the second vehicle to leave I-80 and roll in the north ditch near the Greenwood exit.
Grand Island resident Kristine J. Olson, 50, was killed after she was ejected from the second vehicle. A witness followed MacDonald’s car after she continued to head west towards Lincoln. A state trooper later stopped her car near the 56th Street exit in Lancaster County. She was arrested and transported to Cass County Jail.
Deputy County Attorney Colin Palm told the court Tuesday that a urinalysis revealed the presence of several drugs such as alprazolam and hydrocodone in MacDonald’s blood at the time of the incident. He said the level was not high enough for MacDonald to be legally considered as driving under the influence, but the drugs likely caused MacDonald to become drowsy while she was on the road.
Palm said MacDonald also had a history of drug abuse. She had been charged with possession of a controlled substance in Hall County several weeks prior to the May 31 accident date. She had also appeared in drug court in Hall County in 2013.
Palm also said MacDonald violated the law by knowingly leaving the accident scene. He said she initially told investigators she believed she had struck a guardrail. Palm said there are no guardrails in the section of I-80 where the accident took place. Palm said MacDonald had also made a statement to a passenger that she thought she might have hit another vehicle.
“At worst, she did know that she hit someone and continued on,” Palm said. “At best, she thought she might have hit someone. In either instance she should have stopped and rendered aid at the scene.”
Palm asked the court to impose a prison sentence. He said he had spoken several times with Olson’s two daughters and was complimentary of their kindness and intelligence. He said Olson had been a positive role model for her family and was respected in her community.
Judge Jeffrey Funke said MacDonald bore all of the responsibility for the fatal accident. He said the pre-sentence investigation report revealed MacDonald had been using drugs for more than a decade. He told MacDonald she needed to seek help for her substance abuse issues while she was in prison.
“You have to get treatment,” Funke said. “Society cannot afford to lose more people at your hands.”
Funke said he would follow the recommendations of a plea agreement between the state and defense. He sentenced MacDonald to serve one year in the Nebraska Department of Corrections on the motor vehicle homicide charge. He also sentenced her to serve seven to ten years in state prison for driving away from the accident scene. MacDonald must serve the sentences on a consecutive basis.
Funke said MacDonald would be eligible for parole in 42 months and would be mandatorily released after 66 months. Her driver’s license will be suspended for the next 15 years.