CHARLESTON — A Mattoon woman was sentenced Thursday to serve 180 days of jail time after pleading guilty to charges accusing her of causing an accident that killed one woman and severely injured another.
Shelby N. Espe, 24, also will be required to serve 30 months of probation in connection with the Jan. 20 accident north of Charleston that led to the death of Kayla L. Eggers and injuries to Andrea E. Garcia, who were passengers in the car Espe was driving.
Espe's sentence resulted from an agreement between Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher, who prosecuted the case, and defense attorney Sean Britton. The sentencing took place before Coles County Circuit Judge Teresa Righter.
During the hearing, Espe withdrew her Aug. 2 guilty plea to a charge of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and pleaded guilty to a reinstated charge of reckless homicide. Her Aug. 2 guilty plea to another charge of aggravated DUI remained in place.
Espe, who has been free on bond, will serve 180 days in the Coles County Jail on the reckless homicide charge and 10 days, concurrently, for the aggravated DUI charge. Jail time of 170 days for the DUI charge was stayed, pending compliance with probation requirements.
Britton said Espe, who is pregnant, is scheduled to serve 90 days in jail and then be released to address her medical needs. The remaining 90 days of her jail sentence will then be addressed during a May 7 status hearing.
In addition to Espe's 30 months of probation time, she will be required to pay more than $1,500 in fines and court costs and $1,197 in restitution to the Charleston Fire Department. She also will be required to perform 100 hours of community service and complete at least 50 hours within the first year.
The Jan. 20 accident occurred at Illinois 130 and County Road 1500N, about six miles north of Charleston, according to the Coles County Sheriff's Office. After going through the intersection, the car went off the road and traveled about 400 feet before hitting a bridge and going into a creek, the sheriff's office said.
According to the sheriff's office, Eggers, who was a 23-year-old Mattoon resident, was thrown from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene. Garcia, also 23 at the time, for whom records show addresses in Effingham and in Charleston, and Espe were both taken to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana after the accident.
Thursday's hearing included the reading of victim impact statements by Eggers' father, Delbert, and aunt, Linda Henderson. Delbert Eggers recalled how his life instantly changed forever on the day that his daughter died.
"We were always there for each other," Delbert Eggers said. "I will miss everything about Kayla. Her smile. Her bubbly personality." Delbert Eggers also said he will never get the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day or welcome her potential children into the world.
During her victim impact statement, Henderson asked that Espe be held accountable for the accident that killed her niece and severely injured Garcia. After the sentencing hearing, Henderson questioned Espe not receiving prison time for the charges and referred to other fatal or injury accident cases in the area that have resulted in prison time.
"We think that she got off with hardly nothing," Henderson said. "It doesn't seem right at all."
Bucher said after the hearing that balancing the level of justice sought by the families of victims with the facts of a case, such as Espe not having a prior criminal record, and the laws involved can be challenging.
"It was very difficult in this case. I don't know if I found justice," Bucher said.