Local News

Man Sentenced To 4 Months In Jail For Guide Dog Hit-And-Run

Posted September 5, 2006

— A man convicted of hitting a blind woman and killing her guide dog last fall was sentenced Tuesday to four months in jail and two years' probation.

Prosecutors said Stephen Coffee had a blood-alcohol content twice the legal limit when he drove his vehicle into Aoife Iredale and her dog, Inca, while they were waiting at a bus stop in Carrboro last October. Coffee pleaded guilty last month to driving while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run in the case.

At Tuesday's sentencing, Iredale tearfully told Judge Orlando Hudson how the incident left her emotionally devastated. She also said that she has to undergo lengthy physical therapy and has been dealing with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Inca died in her harness, in the dirt by the side of the road. She deserved a long life and a peaceful, painless death, and she got neither," Iredale said. "Those few seconds were the most frightening and lonely in my life."

Iredale said that she has a new guide dog, Flurry, but it took her months of training and thousands of dollars to get the dog.

On Tuesday, to recoup some of that money, she filed a civil suit against Coffee and a Franklin Street bar where he allegedly drank before getting behind the wheel.

Coffee, who struggled to speak for several minutes before quietly apologizing to Iredale, told the judge that he was sorry for his actions.

"I prayed for many nights after this happened," he said before Hudson gave him a lecture about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Coffee, who will go to jail Friday, could have faced almost two years behind bars. He will also have to take part in an alcohol rehabiliation program as part of his probation.

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