Man charged in fatal crash sentenced to 2 years, family says justice 'failed'
Clutching pictures of their loved ones, a grieving family watched as the man charged with killing them pleaded guilty Thursday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Clutching pictures of their loved ones, a grieving family watched as the man charged with killing them pleaded guilty Thursday.
A woman who lost her 7-year-old daughter and her mother says the justice system has failed them.
“On May 17, 2014 is the day we began our life sentence,” said Becky Ralph.
Shawn Coogle wiped away tears as he heard Ralph share how a single car crash has affected her family.
It was a Saturday morning in May -- two years ago -- when Ralph's mother offered to take her daughters to a soccer tournament, then tee-ball. But they never arrived.
“Our lives now consist of changing out cemetery decorations,” Ralph told Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens.
Shawn Coogle crashed his Jeep into the family's Chevrolet at 9:30 in the morning on Terry Road.
Ella Ralph, 7, was killed. Ella's grandmother died three months later.
“Nobody should lose anyone especially their baby or their mother,” said Ralph.
Ella's sisters -- who are just 11 and 13 -- were critically injured and are still recovering.
Coogle's plea deal shocked the family when he was sentenced to just two years in prison.
“It's going to happen again and I don't want anybody to get that phone call,” said Ralph.
Prosecutors say Coogle had taken a Valium pill before the crash, but experts could not say he was "impaired" because of it.
“It was going to be it could have caused impairment but that he was possibly and probably a chronic user so his level of impairment wasn't what a normal persons would be,” explained prosecutor, Jennifer Murzyn Yancy.
The murder charge against Coogle was amended down to reckless homicide.
Coogle entered an Alford plea, which means he maintains his innocence but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict him.
“Shawn wanted to take responsibility and he feels awful for what happened to this family we all do,” said Coogle’s attorney, Brian Butler.
But Coogle has a record, according to his attorney, and he has previously been charged with DUI.
The grieving mother says two years just isn't enough.
“[The justice system] failed her, and my mother, and it failed them long before it even happened. Things need to be changed,” said Ralph.
Coogle also pleaded to assault, criminal mischief and wanton endangerment. His attorney told WDRB Coogle will likely serve probation in his pending DUI case.
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