The Queens woman who crashed a van full of foster children while she was drunk and high on crack and heroin was sentenced yesterday. Two children in the van were killed in the 2009 crash and are gone forever, but driver Sheila Bethea, 46, could continue get out of prison in as few as 2 1/3 years. At her sentencing yesterday, the devastated mother of one of the little girls tore into Bethea with righteous anguish.
"You did this to my baby!" shouted the mother of Elhmer-Mirra, 5, as she held up a photograph of her daughter's dead body in the morgue. "This is what you did to my baby, you murderer!" Bethea admitted to shooting up heroin, drinking, and smoking crack before loading five foster kids into a van and driving off. The children were in the care of her mother, not Bethea, and the agency that placed the children did not know she resided there, so they never discovered her lengthy criminal record: Bethea had been arrested at least eight times on charges of drug possession, assault, robbery, and DWI.
Bethea's mother had left $30 and the number of taxi for her to call and transport the children to their foster care appointment. Instead, Bethea loaded them into the van, didn't buckle their seat belts, and had two children sitting on the floor of the vehicle because it was missing seats. Police say she was driving 70 mph when her minivan crossed a double yellow line on a street in St. Albans and collided with an oncoming Toyota minivan. They later found her crack pipe hidden inside a body cavity.
At her sentencing yesterday, Bethea was tearful but did not take responsibility for the crash. She told the judge she was going around a double parked car on a St. Albans street when the horrific accident happened. "I checked...There was no car coming, another car sideswiped me," she told the judge, according to the Post. "God knows this was a bad accident. I'm suffering just as much as these parents are. It was an accident—a horrible accident." She was sentenced to 2 1/3 to seven years.
The Daily News reports that both families have filed lawsuits against the city, accusing the Administration for Children's Services of negligence.