Public Safety

Their daughters were killed in a head-on crash. The judge gave the driver 10 years.

Brianna Stastny
Brianna Stastny

CEDAR RAPIDS — A heartbroken mother said Tuesday it was difficult to forgive the woman who killed her daughter and another woman in a head-on crash two years ago.

Judy Spratte, during a victim impact statement, showed Brianna Stastny a photo of her daughter, Darla Moander, 43, of Cedar Rapids, as she broke down, saying she missed sitting next to her daughter every week at church.

Moander was killed on Sept. 29, 2017, when Stastny, 24, of Mount Vernon, was speeding, trying to pass a party bus and another car but instead crashed into Moander’s car. Kaelonnie Moore, 22, of Cedar Rapids, who was a passenger in Stastny’s car, also was killed.

Moander’s father, Donald Spratte, said his daughter was a “bright light in a dark world, and her joy and laughter are gone forever.”

Her two sisters, also in heartfelt statements, said their lives will never be the same without the “beautiful soul” who wanted to donate her organs but couldn’t because of her extensive injuries in the crash.

Moore’s mother, Shakeitha Moore-Griffin, in her statement said, “It’s still unbelievable I am here today. You’re not supposed to bury your children.”

She was awakened at 4 a.m. hours after the crash to hear that her “vibrant” daughter died. Those words continue to “ring out in her head” throughout every waking moment of the day, she said.

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Moore-Griffin said no amount of punishment would be enough for taking her daughter, but she asked the judge to give her family and Moander’s family “some sort of comfort” by sentencing Stastny to the maximum prison time.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill did just that. He sentenced Stastny to 10 years in prison. She pleaded guilty in May to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, each with a five-year penalty, which Thornhill ran consecutively.

Stastny, who was crying in making a plea for probation, said she wasn’t a “menace” and asked the judge for a chance to prove herself. She said she didn’t want to drive again because she didn’t want “this to happen again.”

“No amount of ‘sorry’ could make up the pain I caused,” Stastny said. “I think every day about Darla and Kaelonnie. I hate that this happened, and I don’t expect forgiveness.”

Speaking to the packed courtroom, Thornhill said nothing he can do could change what happened, and he has “sympathy” for everyone involved. However, he said, “I don’t feel probation is appropriate. This tragedy could have been avoided.”

A criminal complaint shows Stastny was heading north at 11:26 p.m. Sept. 29, 2017, on Highway 151 near Wright Brothers Boulevard when she attempted to pass a car and a bus. She was driving 81 mph when she crashed into an oncoming a car, driven by Moander, who was headed south.

Both Moander and Moore, a passenger and co-worker of Stastny’s, died upon impact, according to the complaint.

Stastny originally was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide while being under the influence of drugs and two counts of vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner.

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But those charges were amended after a judge granted a defense motion to toss a blood test that revealed marijuana in Stastny’s system.

According to the complaint, an accident reconstruction report confirmed there was no evidence of Stastny braking at the time of impact.

The complaint also showed Stastny admitted at the time it was possible she smoked marijuana before the crash that night and that she frequently smoked the drug at that time.

This ruling also meant the prosecution at trial could not use evidence of marijuana and drug paraphernalia found in Stastny’s purse.

Judge Thornhill also ordered Stastny to pay restitution of $150,000 to each of the victims’ estates or heirs.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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