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Potsdam woman sentenced to prison for hit-and-run death of pedestrian

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CANTON — The Potsdam woman who admitted to hitting and killing a pedestrian last year while she was driving drunk was sentenced to prison Monday in St. Lawrence County Court.

Laurel L. Randall, 45, of 16 Debra Drive, was sentenced to 4 to 13 years after pleading guilty March 10 to first-degree vehicular manslaughter, a class C felony.

On March 30, 2013, Ms. Randall’s vehicle struck and killed Fuli Wu, 59, as Ms. Wu was walking along May Road in Potsdam.

With tears streaming down her face, Ms. Randall listened Monday as Assistant District Attorney Joshua A. HaberkornHalm recounted that night when Ms. Randall, with a blood alcohol content of 0.21 percent, “plowed into Ms. Wu, leaving her to die on the road.”

“Her family found her bleeding from the head,” Mr. HaberkornHalm said. “There is a family without a mother today and a woman is dead.”

In a victim impact statement provided to the court, Ms. Wu’s son-in-law, Chenjie Miao, said, “Ms. Randall is a threat to public safety, and the only way to protect the public is to incarcerate her for as long as possible.”

Ms. Randall’s attorney, Charles B. Nash, said while she could not change what happened that night, she has made an effort to seek treatment for her problem with alcohol. He asked for Judge Richards to consider her efforts.

Given the opportunity to address the court, Ms. Randall said she knew she couldn’t bring Ms. Wu back but “she saved my life, if that makes any sense.”

“I follow your line of reasoning,” Judge Richards said. “You have taken steps, but they never would have been taken if it weren’t for this accident.”

In addition to her prison sentence, Ms. Randall was ordered to pay court fines, fees and surcharges totaling $375.

Along with Ms. Randall, codefendant Stephen E. Coates, 49, Hannacroix, formerly of 4 Missouri Ave., Potsdam, was sentenced to 45 days in St. Lawrence County jail and three years of probation, to be served concurrently, after pleading guilty March 11 to felony attempted tampering with physical evidence.

After the hit-and-run crash, Mr. Coates, a passenger in the car, hid Ms. Randall’s vehicle in his garage.

Mr. HaberkornHalm pushed for a stricter sentence. He told the judge that after Ms. Randall struck Ms. Wu, Mr. Coates “checked on the woman, found her bleeding, left her there to die and hid the car in his garage.”

Mr. Coats apologized to Ms. Randall and her family and to the family of Ms. Wu, none of whom were present. He said he was remorseful for what happened and “nothing can rectify what happened that night.”

Mr. Coates also was ordered to pay $245 in court fines, fees and surcharges and his probation sentence was transferred to Greene County, where he lives.

District Attorney Mary E. Rain, in a press release, said “vehicular homicide and assault is a very serious problem in this country. This office has stepped up its efforts to garner convictions with heavy sentences.”

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