LOCKPORT – A Lewiston man who was believed to have been under the influence of marijuana when he drove off after his car struck and killed a woman was sentenced Wednesday to 16 months to four years in prison.
“This is a tough one,” Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said of the case of Carmen Crapsi, 23, of Onondaga Street, who pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal incident without reporting it.
Farkas could have given Crapsi up to seven years in prison, and survivors of the victim, Lorelei Walker, 34, of South Buffalo, urged the maximum. Walker had been walking down the middle of a badly lit road in a rainstorm at 5 a.m. on June 29.
Crapsi had been arrested on consecutive nights in Wyoming County less than a month before for driving under the influence of marijuana. “What role did the marijuana play in the crash? We’ll never know, because he left the scene,” Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner said.
But defense attorney Thomas Trbovich said Crapsi did test positive for marijuana in his system after turning himself in later that morning.
He said that because of the conditions, Crapsi thought he had struck an animal until he noticed hair on his car when he got out of the vehicle.
“It was never my intention to hurt or end anyone’s life,” Crapsi said as he apologized to Walker’s family.
“The victim, from our investigation, went to the hospital that night looking for medication, checked herself out and was wandering down the road, in an area where four [street] lights were out, in an incredible downpour,” Trbovich told the judge. “She wasn’t on the side of the road. She was in the middle of the road. Any one of us in this courtroom could have hit her.”
Walker was killed on Lewiston Road near the Upper Mountain Road overpass in Lewiston.
Rosemary Beres, the victim’s aunt, said the family “can’t understand how this man could have left her there to die alone.”
Karla Walker, the dead woman’s sister, told Farkas that the two arrests May 31 and June 1 in Wyoming County presented Crapsi with “an opportunity to evaluate his behavior.” However, she said, he failed to do so.
Brenner said that Crapsi told a probation officer in a presentencing interview that he had continued to smoke marijuana into November, more than a month after his Oct. 1 guilty plea. “That really, really was a problem,” Farkas said.
Brenner said, “I think the family is entirely warranted in saying without some stern response, we’re going to be here again.”
Trbovich said Crapsi was smoking pot to escape from his depression over having killed someone.
“I understand what the judge did,” he said. “There’s a tragedy that happened. A life is gone. The judge felt some real punishment was required.”
“No one wins today, no matter what was done,” Karla Walker said after court. “Hopefully, the time he was given will be enough for him to reflect on his inappropriate behavior and become a productive member of society.”
Trbovich said, “When there’s talk about legalizing marijuana in New York, this conversation will come up. It stays in your system for 30 days.”