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Georgia judge sentences woman to 36 years for Easter crash

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Five people, 3 of them children, died in the 2009 crash in southwest Atlanta
  • Judge calls it "the hardest case I have ever dealt with"
  • Aimee Michael, 24, is convicted on multiple counts, including homicide
  • Her mother, Sheila got 8 years for her role in hindering her daughter's arrest

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- A judge in Fulton County, Georgia, sentenced a woman to 36 years in prison Thursday for her role in an Easter Sunday car wreck last year that left five people dead, and for her subsequent role in trying to cover it up.

Aimee Michael sat expressionless as her sentence was read -- guilty of homicide by vehicle in the first degree, serious injury by vehicle, hit and run, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane and tampering with evidence. She also received 14 years' probation and was ordered not to operate a motor vehicle and to surrender her driver's license.

Michael's mother, Sheila Michael, was sentenced to eight years for tampering with evidence and hindering her daughter's apprehension.

"I know, at 22, there are things that many of us have done in this courtroom that we may not be proud of, decisions we may have made," Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams, her voice quavering, told defendant Aimee Michael. "But this is, for me, from all my days as a prosecutor, from the time that I have spent on the bench, the hardest case I have ever dealt with."

Addressing the elder defendant, Adams said, "As a result of your failure to act as a mother should, your life and the life of your daughter, unfortunately, will be changed forever."

The incident occurred April 12, 2009, when Aimee Michael lost control of her BMW as she was driving in southwest Atlanta to buy ice cream at a grocery store, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Her car hit a Mercedes, which slammed into a Volkswagen Beetle.

All four occupants of the Mercedes -- Robert Carter, his wife, Delisia Carter, their infant son Ethan Carter, and Kayla Lemons, Delisia Carter's 9-year-old daughter -- were killed, the newspaper reported. Morgan Johnson, who was 6 years old, died in the Volkswagen.

Ten days passed before police, acting on a tip, found Michael's newly repaired BMW in her family's driveway in south Fulton County.

In court, both women -- dressed in blue prison jumpsuits -- offered tearful apologies.

"I have wronged three families, and for that I am sorry," Aimee Michael said, her voice cracking. "I apologize to the Carter family and I apologize to the Johnson family ... Not a day goes by that I don't pray for your comfort and your peace and your healing. ... I want to apologize to my family and to my mother and my father and everybody that I've let down, and I pray that God forgives me."

Said Sheila Michael: "To all the families, I'm very sorry ... my prayer for you each day is that your sorrow be comforted in His loving arms."

Robert Carter's mother and sister, Sherry Fain and Tomeika Fain, told HLN's "Prime News" they were unmoved by the Michaels' apologies.

"There's nothing that they can say to ease the pain and the hurt that I feel of losing my child, my firstborn and his only child, that was Robert's only child he had -- little Ethan," said Sherry Fain.

"Even if she had come back or turned herself in to the police -- but to repair the car? No, they have no remorse. They don't."

Tomeika Fain said Aimee Michael should have received a longer sentence. "My brother, he died a horrific death -- he and his family," she said. "She had no remorse, to me. She was just worried about herself."

She said Thursday's comments in court by the Michaels were the first she had heard from either woman, adding that she would like to hear more details.

"I want to know what happened," Tomeika Fain said. "Were you on the phone, were you texting, were you smoking?"

At the courthouse, Morgan Johnson's mother, Tracie Johnson, who was badly injured herself, told a reporter she has no hate for the Michaels.

"Each and every day, I am reminded by that accident on Easter Sunday, whether it is physical pain or emotional pain," she said. "I just want the defendants to know that I pray for them."

Aimee Michael's lawyer, W. Scott Smith, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.