A Baton Rouge woman convicted in 2003 of driving drunk and accidentally running over a toddler being pushed in a stroller on a College Drive sidewalk pleaded guilty Monday to driving while intoxicated and colliding head-on with a tow truck in 2012.
After the most recent crash, medical personnel found a bottle of vodka in Sheri McElveen’s underwear.
McElveen, who was sentenced in the earlier case to a year in a halfway house and a year of home incarceration followed by five years’ probation, now faces one to five years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
State District Judge Tony Marabella ordered a presentence investigation in advance of her June 3 sentencing. At least six months of McElveen’s prison time must be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, the judge told her.
McElveen, 52, was taken from the courtroom by East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies. Marabella set a $5,000 post-conviction bond.
McElveen’s attorney, John Calmes, declined comment afterward.
Following both crashes, McElveen refused to take a breath test for alcohol.
In the Dec. 19, 2002, accident that killed 11-month-old Taleya Prestly and injured her pregnant mother, Rochelle Prestly, investigators forced McElveen to provide blood and urine samples. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.27 percent, and an analysis of her urine showed the presence of cocaine and prescription drugs, prosecutors said in 2003.
In Louisiana, a reading on the breath-alcohol analysis machine of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving.
Prestly and her daughter were returning home from a Christmas program at Westdale Elementary when they were struck about 10:30 a.m. The woman was injured but survived and later gave birth to a healthy child.
McElveen did not stop after hitting the woman and her daughter. A passing motorist noticed the stroller lodged under the bumper of McElveen’s car and called 911. He followed McElveen and led officers to her, police said.
McElveen pleaded guilty in 2003 to vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular injuring and hit-and-run driving. State District Judge Richard Anderson sentenced her to a year in Ecumenical House and a year of home incarceration, followed by five years’ probation.
Prosecutors told Anderson that McElveen was extremely remorseful and had taken steps to address the personal problems that led to the fatal accident. Those steps included Alcoholics Anonymous courses and treatment. An attorney for Rochelle Prestly told the judge that she forgave McElveen.
In the March 6, 2012, crash, McElveen pleaded guilty Monday to second-offense DWI. Prosecutors dropped two other charges: open container and driving on the wrong side of the road.
McElveen told The Advocate three days after her arrest in the 2012 crash that she was not drunk when she crashed her car head-on into a tow truck on Airline Highway near Barringer-Foreman Road at about 12:45 p.m. She said she reached down for her cellphone and “got off track.”
But prosecutor Eli Abad said in court Monday that a Louisiana State Police trooper investigating the wreck smelled alcohol on McElveen’s breath as she was being removed from her car at the scene of the accident. When the trooper asked McElveen if she had been drinking, Abad said, she said she had not.
McElveen refused to submit to a blood sample that would have been tested for drugs and alcohol, an affidavit of probable cause states. Abad said she was “belligerent” with medical personnel at Baton Rouge General Medical Center where she was taken and treated for minor injuries. The driver of the truck was not hurt.
While being examined at the hospital, medical personnel found a bottle of Taaka vodka in McElveen’s underwear, Abad said. She told investigators she was not drinking the vodka before the crash, he said.