General Crime

* Judy Shafer was sentenced to the maximum 13-year prison term for the DUI-related gross vehicular manslaughter of a Rohnert Park woman Kathy O’Daniel

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Two families released their grief in a Sonoma County Superior Courtroom this morning where Forestville resident Judy Shafer was sentenced to the maximum 13-year prison term for the DUI-related gross vehicular manslaughter of a Rohnert Park woman in September.The family of 54-year-old Kathy O’Daniel, who died at the scene of the Sept. 14 crash east of Sebastopol, berated Shafer, 56, for her “selfish and self-centered” decision to drink before getting into her 2002 Jeep Liberty that struck O’ Daniel’s 1998 Honda Civic on Llano Road north of Ludwig Road.”She was everything you were not and on Sept. 14, 2009, she was ripped from us without notice,” O’Daniel’s husband Chuck O’Daniel told Shafer, who sat hunched over the defense table and cried and moaned “Dear God” throughout the 90-minute sentencing. O’Daniel said he, his wife and his five children ages 15 to 27, are devout Christians who celebrated every holiday together. The family showed photos from each of the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and family occasions they observed during the course of a year. Kelcee O’Daniel, who suffered broken bones and internal injuries in the crash, which happened the day after her 15th birthday, said her mother’s last words were “Oh God!” when she saw Shafer’s Jeep coming toward them. She said she was in the hospital emergency room near Shafer and heard Shafer screaming hysterically about her car.”Not true, not true,” Shafer sobbed.Kelcee O’Daniel said the family believes God calls on them to forgive, “but it will take some time.”Shafer’s two brothers, Tim and Tom Traeger spoke in their sister’s defense. “She’s not a demon. She’s a mother, sister and a human being who made a tragic mistake,” Tim Traeger said.”If this family is as Christian as they say they are,there should be some forgiveness,” Traeger said. Shafer’s 23-year-old daughter Skandia Shafer said she “was an amazing mom” who participated in soccer and PTA activities before she succumbed to alcoholism.”Alcohol and drug abuse run in my family,” she said. Her mother reached the bottom because of the crash and realized she needed treatment, Skandia Shafer said. Shafer’s blood-alcohol level was 0.19 percent after the crash, more than twice the legal limit.”She is lucid, present and stays with one thought. I’m so sorry this had to come at the loss of your mother,” Shafer said.”I didn’t have the mom you had,” she told the O’ Daniel family. “She should be given a chance,” Shafer said.Shafer’s family asked Judge Arthur Wick to sentence her to probation so she could receive treatment and speak in the community about alcoholism and the dangers of drunk driving.Defense attorney Jamie Thistlethwaite asked Wick to sentence Shafer a nine-year prison term, not the maximum.Shafer pleaded guilty to all the charges but still struggled with denial, which was “a defense mechanism to prevent feeling the enormity of her guilt,” Thistlethwaite said. Shafer, however, has accepted her culpability and responsibility, she said. Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner said Shafer has a long history of alcohol and pills abuse and should have been well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. “She had years to seek treatment and address these issues. Her own family recognized her inveterate problem,” Waner said.Waner said the fatal crash was not caused by “the flu, cramps or dehydration as suggested by Miss Shafer.” “Remorse and insight are sorely lacking,” Waner said.Wick imposed the maximum 13-year term because he found Shafer’s “intentional, egregious and reckless” conduct left “tremendous physical and emotional scars.”

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