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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Sheila Sorrentino of Southport was killed in a head-on collision last June.

The driver who hit and killed her was charged with a misdemeanor, but Sheila’s family thought the punishment should be harsher.

Although it has been over a year since the fatal crash, Sheila’s daughters said they can still remember the shock they felt when they heard their mother was dead.

“When she (her sister) picked me up and told me she was dead I told her she was lying. I said ‘you’re lying,’ “said Sheila’s daughter Serena Johnson.

Sheila was just 55-years-old when she was killed.

Her family said she was always laughing, spoiled her grandchildren, and loved lunch dates with her daughters.

“She was just there. She was our mom doing what moms do,” said Johnson.

Investigators said 28-year-old Anna Kathleen Pierce hit Sheila’s vehicle when she crossed over the centerline on NC-133.

Sheila’s family said they later found out a hospital drug test showed Pierce tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and meth.

“We were expecting the charges to be changed,” said Sheila’s daughter Theresa Smith.

Smith said investigators were not able to prove Pierce was impaired at the time of the wreck, which is why she was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and not a felony.

“When you party all weekend and get up Monday morning, after you used drugs, you are going to make bad judgments. Whether you are totally impaired or not, there is going to be a lingering affect,” said Smith.

Earlier this month Pierce pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 18 days in jail and three years’ probation.

Sheila’s family feels that was only a slap on the wrist for her which has prompted their fight for a change in the wording of the law.

“If you have a positive drug test, it should be a felony,” said Smith.

Smith said she reached out to Senator Thom Goolsby for guidance. She said she has not heard back.

WWAY also contacted Goolsby to no avail.

Smith also said she plans on contacting MADD and eventually Governor Pat McCrory.

Comment on this Story

  • Ryan

    Please take a look at NCGS § 20-138.1, the impaired driving statute. It should shed some light on some of your questions.

    Impaired driving.

    (a) Offense. – A person commits the offense of impaired driving if he drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State:

    (1) While under the influence of an impairing substance; or

    (2) After having consumed sufficient alcohol that he has, at any relevant time after the driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The results of a chemical analysis shall be deemed sufficient evidence to prove a person’s alcohol concentration; or

    (3) With any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance, as listed in G.S. 90-89, or its metabolites in his blood or urine.

    (a1) A person who has submitted to a chemical analysis of a blood sample, pursuant to G.S. 20-139.1(d), may use the result in rebuttal as evidence that the person did not have, at a relevant time after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

    (b) Defense Precluded. – The fact that a person charged with violating this section is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug is not a defense to a charge under this section.

    (b1) Defense Allowed. – Nothing in this section shall preclude a person from asserting that a chemical analysis result is inadmissible pursuant to G.S. 20-139.1(b2).

    (c) Pleading. – In any prosecution for impaired driving, the pleading is sufficient if it states the time and place of the alleged offense in the usual form and charges that the defendant drove a vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area while subject to an impairing substance.

    (d) Sentencing Hearing and Punishment. – Impaired driving as defined in this section is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction of a defendant of impaired driving, the presiding judge shall hold a sentencing hearing and impose punishment in accordance with G.S. 20-179.

    (e) Exception. – Notwithstanding the definition of “vehicle” pursuant to G.S. 20-4.01(49), for purposes of this section the word “vehicle” does not include a horse. (1983, c. 435, s. 24; 1989, c. 711, s. 2; 1993, c. 285, s. 1; 2006-253, s. 9.)

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