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Potsdam woman sentenced to 4 1/3 to 13 years in prison for fatal hit and run accident

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CANTON - The Potsdam woman who struck and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk in March last year was sentenced to 4 1/3 to 13 years in state prison Monday by St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards.

Laurel L. Randall, 45, of 16 Debra Drive, had pleaded guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter, a class C felony, in a deal that would satisfy the additional charges she was facing.

Randall was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first- and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, first- and second-degree vehicular assault, tampering with physical evidence, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, driving while intoxicated and aggravated DWI after she struck Fuli Wu, 59, as she was walking along May Road about 8:30 p.m. on March 30, 2013.

Randall admitted to drinking that afternoon before leaving a bar with two friends in her car about 8:30 p.m., according to court documents. She had a bllod alcohol content of 0.21 percent that night. The threshold for intoxication under state law is 0.08 percent. Aggravated DWI is charged when the BAC is 0.18 percent or higher.

Driving around a bend on May Road that night, Ms. Randall struck something that shattered the passenger-side windshield of her car. She said a passenger in her car, Stephen E. Coates, got out to see what she hit and told her it was a deer and to “just go.”

Coates, 48, 4 Missouri Ave., Potsdam, was also indicted by a grand jury for allegedly helping Randall hide her vehicle in his garage after the incident. Randall’s second passenger, Leanna R. Perrigo-White, 34, Norfolk, called a friend who then reported the incident to police, according to documents. She was not charged in the case. She indicated the two other people in the vehicle were aware they had struck a person before fleeing the scene.

Prosecutors noted Randall left the scene without contacting 911 and then attempted to conceal her role in the crime by hiding the vehicle with the assistance of Cates.

Wu was in Potsdam visiting family members at the time of her death.

Her son-in-law, Chenjie Mao, had urged the court to sentence Randall to the maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in a state correctional facility.. “Randall is a threat to public safety and the only way to protect the public is to incarcerate her for as long as possible,” he noted in a victim impact statement provided to the court prior to sentencing.

District Attorney Mary E. Rain said vehicular homicide and assault are very serious problems in St. Lawrence County.

“This office has stepped up its efforts to garner convictions with heavy sentences. Today’s sentence and last week’s conviction of Daniel Lester reflect those efforts,” she said.

Lester, 28, of 8 Heuvelton St., waived his right to have his case brought before a grand jury and pleaded guilty Thursday to Superior Court information charging him with felony first-degree vehicular manslaughter in the death of Richard F. Morrow, 68, of Ellis Road, Canton.

Lester faces four to 12 years in prison.

He originally was charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree vehicular assault, leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident, driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while intoxicated with prior convictions and aggravated unlicensed operation. Lester’s attorney, St. Lawrence County Public Defender Stephen D. Button, said the plea deal also ruled out the possibility that his client would be charged with second-degree murder or first-degree assault.

Lester previously was convicted of a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge in Oswegatchie Town Court.

At about 10:40 p.m. Dec. 23,Lester was driving on County Route 27 in Canton when his Toyota Corolla struck and killed Mr. Morrow as he rode his bicycle. Lester fled the scene.

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