Crime was years in the making
Annie Rooney was killed in a car crash on July 4.Holly Zachariah
The Columbus Dispatch
Wednesday February 12, 2014
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — The security video at Jerry’s West bar shows Shira Seymour so drunk on July 4 that she keeps tumbling from her barstool. She eventually rests her face on the wooden bar and falls asleep.
Finally, she stumbles out and drives off. After blowing through three red lights and driving without her headlights at 9:20 p.m., she veered across Rt. 50 in Ross County at 80 mph and slammed into the Lincoln Navigator that local lawyer Annie Rooney was driving on her way home from a friend’s house.
Rooney, 36, died a few hours later. And now a judge has sentenced Seymour, also 36, to spend eight years in prison, the maximum, after she pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony.
“Annie’s death was not a random accident,” her younger sister, Kate Rooney Lyaker said during yesterday’s hearing in Ross County Common Pleas Court. “She took her car and, like a gun, she fired it into a crowd … and she killed my sister, Annie.
”The case was heard by visiting Judge Leonard F. Holzapfel, appointed because of Rooney’s relationship with the court as a local attorney — one who had recently moved back home to Chillicothe to be near her family.
Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt told Holzapfel that Seymour had escaped justice a number of times.
Seymour, of Bainbridge, has 24 misdemeanor charges dating to 1997. She had been charged with drunken driving in Athens County in 1997 and had three such charges filed in Chillicothe Municipal Court over the years, but all had been reduced.
She has had her license suspended three times.
“She is one of too many in the state of Ohio who slipped through the cracks,” Schmidt said in court. “Up until July 4, 2013, she had never faced any consequences for her out-of-control actions.”
The company that owns Jerry’s West was cited by Ohio’s Investigative Unit for serving an intoxicated person after Seymour, who was seriously hurt in the crash that day, was arrested. That administrative case is pending.
A State Highway Patrol dispatcher was disciplined because an off-duty Chillicothe police officer reported Seymour’s erratic driving but the dispatcher didn’t relay that to anyone. The crash happened about four minutes later.
Rooney’s family, working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has asked two state legislators to draft a law that would require locking devices to be installed on the vehicles of anyone charged with drunken driving, even on a first offense.
“It’s too late for Annie,” said her older brother, Walter Rooney. “But it’s not too late for someone else.”
Prosecutors said Seymour also had an extraordinarily high level of marijuana in her system at the time of the crash.
When it was her turn to speak, Seymour turned and faced the Rooney family and their 70-plus supporters in the courtroom. She said she comes from generations of alcoholics.
“I do not consider myself a bad person,” she said. “For the past 23 years, I have been blinded by my alcoholism. I will never be able to forgive myself.”
That wasn’t good enough for Dr. Richard Rooney. He tried to explain to the judge the pain of standing at your child’s grave.
“I remember the powerful impulse to climb into the next grave so I could rest beside her and we could talk,” he said. “The loss is profound.”
Link to original article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/02/11/fatal-wreck-sentence.html