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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: June 8, 2015
A woman driving a car at night - Leckerman Law, LLC

32-year-old Meredith Williams-Earle was arrested and put behind bars after she was involved in a fatal drunk driving crash on the morning of 6 August 2013.

Williams-Earle, who is from Lower Merion, holds a degree in education and was teaching Latin at Interboro High School in Delaware County where she used to spend her own money to support her students. On the morning of the incident, she bought a prescription sedative, gulped down some champagne, before filling a plastic cup with whiskey and heading out.

She then strapped her 2-year-old son loosely in the car seat of her Toyota Prius to drive him to day care. However, on her way to day care, she sped through a stop sign at Spring Mill Road and Morris Avenue in Bryn Mawr and slammed into a flower delivery van. The 72-year-old driver of the delivery van, Winston Staats, died at the scene.

Williams-Earle, who is now pregnant with her third child, appeared in Montgomery County Court Tuesday, pleading for mercy.

She told Judge William R. Carpenter that she wakes up every morning with the realization that she is responsible for the suffering of another family. She also stated that she thinks about Staats every day. However, Judge Carpenter said that Staats death could not be overlooked. He turned aside her requests for mercy and sentenced her to 9 to 23 months in jail. The judge however complimented her on making amends with the victim’s family.

Tuesdays sentencing brought an end to the tragic case that had perplexed the jury.

According to police reports, Williams-Earle’s blood alcohol content was recorded at 0.098 after the crash. Williams-Earle and her 2-year-old son were both injured in the crash. She was pleading for mercy so she could be free from jail before her baby is born.

According to her lawyer, Christian Hoey, the accident was caused when Williams-Earle turned to retrieve a piece of food for her fussy toddler in the back seat. Although the mother was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the crash, that was not what caused the accident. This was argued at the trial that took place in March. “Her running that stop sign and causing that accident was caused by the distraction,” stated Hoey.

Williams-Earle was convicted of driving under the influence and reckless endangerment by the jury. She endangered her own child in the incident. However, the panel acquitted her of DUI homicide and deadlock on vehicular homicide. These charges carry a mandatory three-year prison sentence.

The defendant pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Tuesday and was able to avoid retrial.

Assistant District Attorney Alec O’Neill passed the following statement outside of court: “If you’re drinking alcohol … if you’re speeding, if your child isn’t properly restrained, and frankly, if you allow yourself to turn around and be distracted, all of those things can add up to recklessness. And if it kills somebody else, here a jail sentence is appropriate.”

After the incident, Williams-Earle lost her job at Interboro. She had built the Latin program at the school from the “ground up”, according to another teacher.

She also underwent treatment for her depression and alcohol addiction at an inpatient facility and works as an administrative assistant at a company in Wayne now.

Her husband, Timothy Earle, who was also present in court Tuesday said, “This has cut her to the bone, I’d say.”

The victim’s only son, Jonathan Staats, who is in the Army and deployed in Germany, traveled all the way home for the trial. He embraced Williams-Earle after the verdict where she offered an apology and he offered forgiveness.

The judge was lenient enough to allow Williams-Earle to delay reporting to jail until Friday so she could visit her obstetrician. It is hoped that a furlough is arranged for her outside of jail so she can deliver her baby at a hospital.

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