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Raleigh woman pleads guilty to crash that killed 12-year-old son

Posted April 2, 2015

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— A Raleigh woman will serve at least three years in prison for the high-speed crash that killed her son last fall, a wreck she cannot remember but says she will never forget.

Laura Lynne Smith, 50, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony death by vehicle and driving while impaired in the Oct. 13 crash on Creedmoor Road in north Raleigh.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said Smith's 1997 Chevrolet Suburban was swerving along the road at about 3:45 p.m., almost hitting another car before it jumped the curb and slammed into a line of trees between Sawmill and Lynn roads.

Antony Smith, her 12-year-old son, was dead in the back seat, Waller said, hit by a combination of debris flying through the windshield and the crushed roof of the SUV. Emergency crews spent 20 minutes trying to extract Laura Smith from the crumpled vehicle, and she spent more than five weeks at WakeMed with a mild brain injury, liver damage and two broken wrists.

Tests performed at the hospital and by the City-County Bureau of Identification determined Laura Smith had a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.32, which is four times the limit at which a driver is considered impaired under North Carolina law. Waller said an accident reconstruction team from the Raleigh Police Department determined the SUV was traveling at 74 mph before the crash. The speed limit along that section of Creedmoor Road is 45 mph, he said.

"This is just unconscionable," Waller said. "It's hard to wrap your mind around what happened. You hear this called a mistake or an accident a lot of times. It takes a lot of work and a lot of decisions to get to 0.33. And it takes a lot of decisions to get to 74 mph on that road."

Smith has no recollection of the crash, according to Waller and defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. She told police that she took her son to school that morning, returned home to take a nap and remembers nothing after that.

Her estranged husband, Eric Smith, told authorities that his son had a 3:50 p.m. doctor's appointment on the afternoon of the crash. He also said she had a drinking problem in the past but wouldn't elaborate on it.

"How in the world in the middle of the day could somebody have that kind of blood-alcohol and then get in the car with her child and end up with this result?" Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens asked. "Help me understand that."

"I can't sit here and give you an explanation," Roger Smith told Stephens. "You have someone here who, on the one hand, has an amazing level of intellect."

Laura Smith has a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University and worked in the chemical industry until her son was born in 2002, he said.

"Obviously, no one understood, including her, how bad the problem was" with alcohol, Roger Smith said. "I think that's the nature of that problem."

She apologized for her actions that day. "This day and every day, for as long as I live, I have permanent reminders of everything," she told Stephens before becoming too emotional to continue.

Stephens sentenced her to 38 to 58 months in prison and ordered her to undergo substance abuse and mental health counseling.


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  • Phil Larson Apr 3, 2015
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    Sad, she'll have to live with this the rest of her life. That's much worse than three years in lockup.

  • Peter Panda Apr 3, 2015
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    3 years for murder? what a crock

  • Angie Cox Apr 3, 2015
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    three years. unbelievable. if the Dad knew she had a problem he's just as pathetic for letting his kid be with a woman who drinks like that at that time of day and drives her young son around. terrible parenting all around!

  • Janet Scott Apr 2, 2015
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    I am so there with Judge Donald Stephens...Help me understand that.

  • Betsey Duggins Apr 2, 2015
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    Heartbreaking. Unfortunately, she made a choice to get behind the wheel. Alcoholism may be a disease, but she made a CHOICE. No winners, only losers. And to be so highly educated. Just goes to show that addiction knows no boundaries.

  • Khaleel Murphy Apr 2, 2015
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    That don't mean. She was a bad mom because she had a drinking problem she did make bad choices and it ended up with the death of her son its a disease an addiction and we all have addictions one way or the other she has to live with the bad choices she made for the rest of her life nobody's perfect we all have some things that we are not proud of in our lives

  • Barbara Sheppard Apr 2, 2015
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    I'm not sure I would agree that "she was a great mom." She had a drinking problem according to her husband. Assuming that is true, there probably were other times that bad decisions were made. I'm sure this wasn't the first one.

  • Amy Smathers Apr 2, 2015
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    At first I agreed with the other comments on here, then I thought to myself, by all accounts, up until this day, she was a great mom. I don't think there is any sentence that will compare to the eternal sentence she is already serving with the knowledge she killed her son. I do believe her license should be permanently revoked though on top of her 3 year sentence.

  • Sherrill Craig Apr 2, 2015
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    a child's life is worth 3 years...WOW...just...WOW

  • Steve Austin Apr 2, 2015
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    Police report says she was high on medication too. What a shame.