CINCINNATI — Samantha Davis, a mother of two, said she thought she was making the right decision by driving herself to work on Aug. 6, 2016.
It was a deadly decision that cost a mother and her daughter their lives.
“I know I had no business being on the road, but never in a million years would I have thought anything like this could or would happen,” Davis said. “I thought that by going to work I was doing the right thing because I felt like I had to provide for my children. And I had no other option.”
Davis, now 28, was driving under suspension in a 21-year-old truck. Police also found drugs in her car.
“It’s going to be my job here today to take you away from your children,” Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh told Davis during a sentencing hearing Wednesday.
In March, a jury found Davis guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated possession of drugs in the deaths of Sandra Tell, 67, and her daughter Sabrina Miller, 41, both from Wilmington.
Davis lost control of her Dodge pickup on a ramp at Interstate 275 and Interstate 71 in Montgomery. Davis was ejected while her truck crashed over the wall of an overpass landing on a Nissan sedan driven by Tell. Her daughter was the passenger. Both women died. Davis was injured, but survived.
Marsh sentenced Davis to eight years behind bars: four years each for two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide to be served consecutively. Marsh also sentenced Davis to two years for the drug charges, but those will be served concurrently.
The judge said she took into consideration that Davis was driving a deteriorating truck under suspension.
“No license, no tags, no insurance,” Marsh said. “No real capability of really handling that vehicle. And all of a sudden you made the determination on a flat tire, balding tires to hit the expressway, I-71.”
Davis was found to be in possession of pills and a straw that contained drug residue, but the jury did not find her guilty of driving under the influence.
During Davis’ trial, Marsh said a toxicologist testified that drugs found in Davis’ system would “render an average person impaired,” but the jury found the state did not prove impairment beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge said.
Davis was ticketed in Kentucky in December, 2014, and failed to appear for a court hearing in January, 2015, Marsh explained. The following year, police stopped Davis in Norwood and she was ticketed for failing to reinstate her license – a $200 fine. The deadly crash occurred about ten months later.
‘I’ve made mistakes that could have ended just as poorly’
Three members of the victims’ family gave powerful statements during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.
Miller was a single mom to her daughter Brittany Miller.
“My mom was never rich but she was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known,” Miller told the judge.
Miller said she believed there had to be consequences for the crash that killed her mother and grandmother, but that she has compassion for Davis – who was permitted out on bond during her trial.
“I felt frustrated that so much time has passed and that she’s living life without being in jail for my mom and grandma’s deaths,” Miller said. “That doesn’t feel like justice to me. But at the same time I feel sorrow for her. I can’t imagine being in the situation that she’s in. I think I’ve made mistakes that could have ended just as poorly but they haven’t.”
Everett Miller, Sabrina’s father and Tell’s ex-husband, said he spoke to his daughter the night before the accident.
“Every day I live with the knowledge that I will not see Sabrina again in this life,” he said. “I will never get to hold her, or to hug her. Or to hear her say to me, ‘Hey dad,’ when she greeted me. She was such a wonderful person.”
Everett Miller said his daughter was a volunteer and worked with children at daycare. He too expressed compassion for Davis.
“I want Miss Davis to know I do not hate her. I have forgiven her. I think justice, however, needs to be served,” he told the judge.
Mike Tell, Sandra Tell’s husband, also spoke in court.
“I miss her and I miss her daughter and it’s unfortunate that these events occurred,” Tell said.
Prosecutors asked that Davis be given the maximum sentence of 18 years, arguing that Davis lied about a “mystery car” that forced her off the road. Prosecutors said at the time of the offenses, she was also committing the crime of driving under suspension. They accuse Davis of showing little remorse up until the past few months.
Davis tearfully apologized to the victims’ families and to her own family.
“I know birthdays and holidays will never be the same. And there’s nothing I can do or say to ever bring back those beautiful souls,” Davis said. “If I could, I would go back and switch places with them.”