A 42-year-old Star woman will have to spend at least 2 years in prison for her role in a traffic crash on State Street last summer that killed a 5-year-old boy.
Helen Burgess pleaded guilty in late January to vehicular manslaughter and DUI charges in connection with the crash. Fourth District Judge Richard Greenwood gave Burgess a 15-year prison-sentence for the manslaughter and a five-year sentence for the DUI. Those will run concurrently, and Burgess can ask for parole after serving two years.
Marshals led a weeping Burgess from Greenwoods courtroom Tuesday as many of her family and friends fought back tears.
I know I caused a lot of people a lot of pain, Burgess told Greenwood earlier, while fighting to retain her composure. I am really sorry about that.
Ada County prosecutors say Burgess was under the influence of prescription medication when she crashed her Ford Explorer into the back of a minivan at the intersection of Idaho 44 and Idaho 16 on June 16.
Five-year-old Alvin Strauss, who was in the minivan in a child seat, died from injuries he suffered in the crash. His sister, 7-year-old Lorna Marie Strauss, was hospitalized for an extended time after the crash but has since been released.
Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu told Greenwood that Burgess got into two previous car crashes before last summers accident while under the influence of prescription meds and couldnt be trusted not to drive. Akamatsu also pointed out that Burgess was seen driving a car after the crash which killed Alvin Strauss. Greenwood said while he did not believe Burgess was an evil person and felt genuine remorse over what she did, society needed to be protected because she was a high risk to re-offend.
Thats why Greenwood also banned Burgess from driving for life when she gets out of prison.
The Strauss family was in a 1998 Dodge Caravan that was stopped at the light. Deputies say Burgess was driving east on Idaho 44 in a Ford Explorer when she failed to stop striking the rear of the minivan at highway speeds, investigators said. The posted speed limit is 55 mph, and there were no brake marks on the road.
Both Strauss kids were taken to the hospital, along with Burgess and a 14-year-old girl who was in the Explorer
Deputies said neither Burgess nor the girl were wearing seat belts.
The DUI is Burgess second such arrest since 2009, according to Idaho Court records.
In 2009, Burgess pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI, and she received a withheld judgment. She was ordered to pay $359 in fines and fees, put on probation for a year and required to attend a victims impact panel. Prosecutors say that DUI was also for prescription medication.
In 2011, Burgess pleaded guilty to misdemeanor inattentive driving. She was fined $387 and ordered to attend drug and substance abuse classes.
Burgess will get substance abuse and mental health assessments before she is sentenced.
Burgess is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $250,000 bond. If she is able to post that bond prior to the April sentencing hearing, Burgess would have to wear a GPS location device, according to jail records.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219