Found on Chron.com and written by Dug Begley
Jurors sentenced a Houston woman to 15 years in prison Thursday for failing to stop after fatally injuring a bicyclist with her truck.
The decision on punishment for Margaret Mayer, 36, came after 38 minutes of deliberation. She could have been sentenced to probation or up to 20 years in prison. She was convicted Wednesday in the death of Chelsea Norman, 24, on Dec. 1, 2013.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Guy Womack returned to the theme that Norman’s failure to follow safe biking practices contributed to her death.
“If Chelsea Norman had been riding in the bicycle lane she would not have been hit… but she wasn’t,” Womack said.
Prosecutor Alison Baimbridge said Womack’s statement amounted to blaming the victim. She urged jurors to sentence Mayer to prison time.
“She doesn’t want to know the truth because the truth is bad and the truth hurts and the truth is about to send her to prison,” Baimbridge said of Mayer.
Mayer testified Thursday that she believed she had struck a tree, not a person.
“I didn’t think I had done anything,” she said.
Mayer also responded to earlier testimony by members of the family of Norman’s family. Norman died a few days after the accident.
“I cannot express how sorry I am that this happened,” Mayer said. “The words almost escape me, I’m sorry.”
Mayer was convicted of failing to stop and render aid, a felony because it involved Norman’s death.
Jurors heard for the first time Thursday morning that Mayer had a shoplifting conviction when she was 18, and a drunken driving conviction in 2002.
State District Judge Brad Hart revoked Mayer’s bond in April, while she was awaiting trial, for violating his order not to consume alcohol.
Womack hinted that Mayer was grappling with her actions while she was free on bond.
“She has had to live with that and the anguish and guilt and that it was probably her vehicle that did it,” he said.
The most emotional testimony Thursday morning, which moved some jurors to tears, came from Norman’s family.
Randy Norman, Chelsea’s father, said he and his daughter shared a wry sense of humor. Kallie Norman recalled how her baby sister taught her nephews the kind of gross things their mother might prefer they never learn.
Now the family is grappling with how to spend holidays – and many moments – without her humor, companionship and baking skills.
“It wasn’t the same,” Kallie Norman said, recalling that first Christmas, four weeks after Chelsea’s crash. “It was having t0 relearn the part she made of our family meal.”
Larry Villalobos, Chelsea Norman’s boyfriend, said the two of them had been making plans to perhaps find a small farm in the hill country, close to her parents. The two could practice sustainable farming and she could operate a food truck, Villalobos said.
He was waiting with a bottle of wine for Chelsea Norman to pedal home from work on the night of her death. Earlier that day, after months of saying she didn’t want children, Norman told him she had changed her mind, Villalobos said.
“She told me ‘you know, if it works out, I’ll have a kid with you,’ ” Villalobos said.
Now he’s left with only memories, he said, such as the coffee mugs Norman collected and cherished and finger-paintings the two made together.
“The reminders are very good memories, but I would rather have Chelsea back every single day,” Villalobos said