ALBANY, N.Y. – A medicated driver who killed three women when her SUV plowed into a group of pedestrians in upstate New York last summer pleaded guilty Friday to negligent homicide.
LuAnn Burgess, 56, admitted in court that she was taking six medications and became distracted on Aug. 10, 2011, when her 2007 Toyota Highlander ran off a road, hit the women and crashed into a church in the Albany suburb of Voorheesville.
Burgess was originally charged with vehicular manslaughter and lesser charges of driving while under the influence of drugs. Under the terms of the plea, Burgess will spend up to six months in jail and agreed to never drive in New York again.
She had faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
Burgess told police she had just dropped off a foster child at a nearby day program when her flip-flop interfered with the accelerator. Authorities said tests later showed she had the prescription anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs Xanax, Wellbutrin and Seroquel in her system.
The SUV was going 38 mph on the quiet village street and accelerated to 46 mph just before running through part of a parking lot and hitting the women as they waited near the church for a companion, authorities said at the time. The SUV continued 70 or 80 feet, dragging two bodies as it ran under a covered church entryway, smashed iron railings and crashed into the brick wall of the bell tower.
Killed were 66-year-old Carol Lansing, of Green Island, 79-year-old Rosemarie Hume, of Waterford, and 81-year-old Frances Pallozzi, of Waterford.
Both the prosecutor and Burgess' defense lawyer said a gag order prohibited them from discussing the plea bargain.
Burgess is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 11.