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Family not happy about plea deal for man who killed their daughter

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Nearly three years after he was charged with killing a Brunswick County woman in a car crash, a Pender County man reached a deal with prosecutors.

Kim and Ray Heath are still trying to heal after the death of their 23-year-old daughter Stephanie. Today's plea deal did not help.

On May 27, 2010, investigators say Richard Constantineau crossed the center line on NC 211 near Supply and drove head-on into Stephanie Heath's Ford. She died minutes later.

"Stephanie was about the most kind and generous and giving person I have ever met," her mom Kim Heath said. "She had such a love of life that was hard to explain."

Constantineau appeared in Brunswick County Court Monday to finally end the case against him. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by vehicle. He pleaded not guilty to felony death by vehicle. That's what upsets the Heaths the most.

"I think I could have come to a forgiveness easier and sooner had Mr. Constantineau admitted he was impaired," Stephanie's father Ray said. "Of course he did not."

Highway Patrol responded to the accident, but troopers did not draw blood from Constantineau, and there was no written evidence from notes or from witness statements that Constantineau was impaired.

The hospital did draw blood from Constantineau after the accident. Results revealed he had methadone in his system.

The Heath family feels like key evidence went missing.

Highway Patrol says the laws were different in 2010. Now the law allows blood to be taken routinely if a person is charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

"Many laws have changed to assure families in the future that no evidence will slip through the cracks as it did in our case," Kim Heath said.

A judge sentenced Constantineau to 75 days behind bars.

Constantineau is not a stranger to car accidents. The Heaths say prosecutors told them he has been involved in 14 wrecks in the past 10 years.

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Forever Free... Forever Love.

I miss you Stephanie. I feel like I should have asked you to merry me, then I know you still would have been here today. Freedom rings true when I think of you... when I think of us... when I think of all the moments we shared and feelings we had... how we were in the moment each and every moment. I cherish your touch, your breath... your love. One life, one love, one chance and I've lost it all in losing you.

Why is methadone not

Why is methadone not considered an impairing substance?

My husband's 13 year old son

My husband's 13 year old son was killed by a drunk driver in 1978 on Carolina Beach Road, and the woman that hit him and just left him there to die, received 90 days for that. I can't see that any positive changes were made in the system, except for the drunk driver. Receiving 15 less days behind bars certainly was a positive for him. There is something VERY wrong with this judicial system that does not bother to hold the murderers responsible for their actions - especially in the loss of life.

If you want to send a clear message

remember this when the next election is held for the Judgeship and DA.

The DA and Judge in the Constantineau case.

Mr. Tom,
I am Stephanie's mother. I want you to know that the DA, Jon David, the ADA Gina Essey and the judge have done an outstanding job prosecuting this case. The problem in the case is that the State Trooper did not do his job. He did not take a blood sample from the killer to send to the SBI lab. He did not do any drug examination of the man at the wreck site. The Trooper is no longer with the NC Highway Patrol. The blame for the reduction from felony to misdemeanor rests soley on the the Trooper that did not gather any evidence to prove impairmment, in spite of telling us he did everythinng right.
In addition, the maximum sentence for Richard Constantineau, even had he been convicted of Felony death by vehicle, would have only been 24-30 months. That is dictated by the laws in NC. This needs to be changed.

By the way, Richard Constantineau has had 14 wrecks in the past ten years, plus the one that killed my daughter. The DA's research showed he has had 24 wrecks in his lifetime. He will be free tomorrow night, with a valid driver's license. He lives in Rocky Point. We are so afraid he will kill someone else and cause them this unendurable grief.

So sorry for your loss

I have a daughter about this age and I can't imagine the pain and grief you are feeling. I am so sorry for your loss and I am sorry that the man responsible will not pay for taking her life. I can only hope that he suffers in his heart for what he has done.
I wish you and your family peace.

Why Tom?

Isn't it more important to elect people familiar with the law and how to enforce it to these positions?
I would assume if you wanted to send a message you'd want to elect legislators who would pass the laws necessary to close these loopholes - which they did.
Or are you suggesting that sentencing and plea bargains be more consistent? I would argue that the sentence and the deal were consistent with the laws at the time of the crime.
Which brings me to methadone.
Is this in fact a drug that impairs? I thought it was used to get you off drugs that do impair?
Or is the victim's Mom insinuating that because he had methadone in his system that it was "more than likely" he was also taking drugs? With no evidence to back that up?
I dislike plea bargains intensely but I can see why they considered it in this case......

Vog

VOG

I believe the family response was due to the prior record of the driver if I read correctly.

But then, no doubt, whatever I post is likely to receive a VOG post of disagreement.

Tom

I don't disagree with you I think we need to elect people to ENACT stricter laws.
Judges and DA's do not enact legislation - they enforce and interpret previously enacted legislation - so if a message is to be sent it should be to the legislative side not the judiciary.

As for the methadone question I asked for a reason. I sympathize with the mother but a person with methadone in their system is not driving impaired - or are they? I thought Methadone did not have that affect. Its my understanding that they use his to get off drugs.I'm not naive I know that MOST folks don't succeed at that but to imply the driver was impaired without testing is wrong. It seems like the tests afterwards have raised questions about the drivers ability - with no basis for those questions.
This raises the legal question - can a trooper perform a breathalyzer, or an immediate blood test, on a driver if there are no other indications of impairment?
I've often wondered about that...

Vog