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Hit-and-Run Victim's Mother Upset With Driver's Sentence

Posted December 7, 2006

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— The family of a man killed in a July hit-and-run was upset Thursday when the woman charged in the case was sentenced to six to eight months in prison.

Susanne McNicholas, 33, of Wilson Jones Road near Clayton, pleaded guilty to felony hit and run and death by motor vehicle in connection with the July 4 death of 27-year-old Michael Thomas.

Thomas died after being hit by a car as he walked along Barber Mill Road in Clayton, authorities said. Another driver also hit Thomas and called 911.

Highway Patrol troopers located McNicholas and her car two days later. She was on probation at the time in connection with a February driving while impaired conviction and didn't have a driver's license.

McNicholas was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case, but because it took investigators so long to find her, tests couldn't confirm whether she was intoxicated when she hit Thomas. Prosecutors said they had to drop the manslaughter charge as part of a plea agreement.

Melisa Groomes, Thomas' mother, spoke out before McNicholas was sentenced.

"You killed my son. He was my only baby," a sobbing Groomes said.

Both women cried as Groomes read the last Mother's Day card from her son.

"I wanted her to know the type of person my son is and the type of person she left lying in that road," Groomes said after the court hearing.

McNicholas' attorney asked the District Judge Andy Corbett to consider probation for her. She has been in mental health programs and an alcoholic support group since the accident, the attorney said.

Corbett gave McNicholas the maximum sentence he could.

"She left another human being in the middle of the road. She either killed him or he died, and I don't know which, but she needs to go to jail. That's just it," he said.

McNicholas could be out of prison before the first anniversary of Thomas' death, a fact that didn't sit well with Groomes.

"Knowing that she's going to get a small amount of prison time doesn't help. She didn't get enough," she said.

Groomes said she plans to fight for stricter DWI and fatal hit-and-run penalties, hoping her son's death can make a difference.

"They killed someone. There have got to be some changes," she said.

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