A Louisiana woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison this week after pleading guilty in connection with a fatal drunken driving crash that killed a married Mississippi man who was the father of seven children.
The crash was the third driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) incident for defendant Olivia Matte, 28, in nine months, reports said.
James Blackmond, 37, died when Matte's vehicle rear-ended his truck on Lousiana's Lake Pontchartrain Causeway on March 23, 2017, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
An aluminum guard rail smashed through the truck's rear window and impaled Blackmond, the report said. His passenger, Kelly Johnson, was injured in the crash, while Matte was not.
Officials said Matte's blood alcohol content was .216 at the time of the crash, which was close to three times higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent, New Orleans' WWL-TV reported.
Matte pleaded guilty Sept. 4 to a number of charges, including vehicular homicide, careless operation of a vehicle and operating a vehicle with a suspended license, the report said.
Causeway police previously booked Matte for suspected drunk driving on the Causeway bridge on June 12, 2016, the Times-Picayune reported. Louisiana police arrested and booked her in another DWI incident Dec. 7, 2016, the report said.
Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court heard testimony Thursday from family members of both Blackmond and Matte before the sentencing.
Blackmond’s family said lives were shattered by the loss of their loving, jovial “King James” and asked for a sentence of 25 to 30 years, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
“Olivia Matte didn’t just kill my husband, she killed me, also,” said Queenita Blackmond, Jame’s widow, according to the Times-Picayune. “Olivia Matte choosing to drink and drive cost me my everything. Her total disregard for life cost me mine."
“Olivia Matte didn’t just kill my husband, she killed me, also. Olivia Matte choosing to drink and drive cost me my everything. Her total disregard for life cost me mine."
Matte's family and friends described her as an outgoing, caring woman who had quickly, "almost secretly," spiraled into crisis, according to the Advocate.
Barry Matte, Olivia's father, apologized to the Blackmonds in court, the paper reported.
"Olivia is a good person who made not just a mistake, but a terrible mistake," he said, "and one she is going to pay for."
Matte testified that she was abusing alcohol after becoming lost in depression and unsure what to do with her life, the Advocate reported.
"I am sorry and I've always been sorry,” she said. “I wanted it to have been me gone, not him."