McCaffery sentenced for fatal car/ couch crash

Last April, 57 year old Barbara Knapp of South Bend was sleeping on a couch in the privacy of her own home when she was struck and killed by a car that came crashing into her living room.

Today, the driver of that car was punished for her role in the crash.

23 year old Erica McCaffery was ordered to serve 12 years behind bars for causing death while driving with marijuana in her system.

“I wanted 14 years, that’s where I kind of the number I had in my head so, 12 is close,” said Knapp’s daughter, Melissa Shea. Shea said if the crash had occurred one week earlier, it might have been her 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter sleeping on grandma’s couch. “You killed a wonderful person,” Shea said today from the witness stand.

McCaffery’s car had hit with so much force that the home was knocked off its foundation.

The crash not only killed Barbara Knapp, it also destroyed many of the things the woman cherished most in life. “She had all the stuff that had been handed down over generations in the family, and she could tell us, you know,
‘I got this from your great, great grandmother and this is what, you know,’” said Knapp’s son Matt Symanski.

“Her good china cabinet was in that room and it was demolished,” said Shea. “The week before, on Easter, we were, she was going through, she had three bowls that were our great grandmother’s and she’s like, ‘make sure when I’m gone that these aren’t just…it’s not antique, it’s (an heirloom).’”

Knapp’s children came to court Monday to see just how sorry Erica McCaffery might be. “We saw tears when she got handcuffed, if that says anything, but not before,” said Melissa Shea.

Shea also walked out of the courtroom when the driver’s husband took the stand and said that accidents were the number one killer in the world and he didn’t want to see a good person hung for a bad decision.

“Her husband was speaking and to call our story, a sob story, is, I couldn’t, I couldn’t listen to it,” said Shea.

On one hand, McCaffery had no criminal history and she did plead guilty.

On the other hand, McCaffery was driving without insurance, going about 80 in a 30 mile per hour zone and she had been drinking and smoking pot before the crash.

Any argument that is was a case of ‘accidents will happen’ was discounted by Judge John Marnocha. Just prior to handing down his sentence, Marnocha said that when someone gets in a car and drives, they assume some risk on the road, but he pointed out that Knapp ought to be able to fall asleep on her couch without someone driving through and killing her.

“That’s been one of the hardest things about all of this
is that she was just in her living room, probably asleep on her couch, not harming anybody, not looking for trouble, just you know, minding her own business,” said Matt Symanski.

McCaffery’s 12 year sentence was twice as long as the defense had advocated, and even more than the prosecution had suggested when it asked for a minimum of ten years.


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