By Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — A Perkins mother convicted of first-degree manslaughter by driving under suspension during a fatal crash on Highway 33 at Fairgrounds Road that killed her 9-year-old stepson has been given a jury-recommended four-year prison term by Payne County Associate District Judge Michael Kulling.
Sarah Elizabeth Davidson, 32, who did not testify at her August trial, did not express remorse or regret at her sentencing hearing last week, but the child’s paternal grandparents made clear what they thought through written victim impact statements, which were read aloud in court by prosecutor Heidi Silcox.
Addressing her directly, Gary Davidson wrote, “Sarah, you came into our lives eight years ago. Drugs started to be a big thing in your life. You know the truth. You know what was in your system. You took Grayson from us. I hope your time behind bars gives you time to think.”
His wife, Tammye Davidson, wrote, “Sarah, I thought the world of you when Gary and I met you. On Dec. 6, 2021, we found out you had really bad drugs in your system. I feel you belong where you’re going. I’m glad you are going away.”
Sarah Davidson had originally been accused of driving under the influence of methamphetamine during the collision, but on the day before the preliminary hearing a former prosecutor amended the allegations in the manslaughter charge to accuse her only of causing the fatal crash by losing control of her vehicle while driving under suspension or in the alternative by driving left of center. No testimony was given at her trial regarding whether or not drugs were present in her body at the time of the crash.
Although the accident had occurred nearly a year earlier, no one from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which conducts toxicology analysis, testified at the Nov. 3, 2022, preliminary hearing regarding the presence of any drugs in the defendant’s blood. However, at that pre-trial hearing, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Chad Pape had testified that when he interviewed the defendant at a hospital, she said that on the night before the fatal crash, she had taken methamphetamine about 8 pm and used marijuana at 10 pm.
Trooper Pape had testified at the preliminary hearing that the defendant said, “traffic slowed down in front of her. She said she was not distracted before the collision. She said she started braking, swerved off, corrected, came back in the lane and was struck by a red vehicle.”
At the trial, Department of Public Safety employee Dennis Nickel testified that the defendant’s driving privileges had been suspended since 2019 because she had previously been involved in a collision without insurance and owed $3,701 in damages.
The defendant told a trooper that neither of her stepsons was restrained by seatbelts or child restraints at the time of the 4:33 pm Dec. 6, 2021, collision, and her 5-year-old son was not restrained until shortly before the crash when her 11-year-old stepson took it upon himself to secure him in a child restraint, an OHP affidavit alleged.
In addition to causing one child’s death, the jury also found the defendant guilty of causing injuries to four more children including one in the other vehicle, but the jury did not recommend incarceration on those counts that were misdemeanors.
In asking the judge to put the defendant on probation rather than send her to prison, defense attorney Royce Hobbs said, “We believe the appeal will result in a reversal,” of her felony conviction of first-degree manslaughter by driving under suspension.
The defense attorney maintained to the judge that driving under suspension can never be deemed dangerous to life.
“She stands here with no significant criminal history. Safe Passages has room for her. She surrendered herself. She’s willing to go to treatment. At best, she is guilty of negligent homicide, a misdemeanor,” Hobbs said.
The prosecutor told the judge, “Grayson died because of the actions of Sarah Davidson,” and asked that she be given a four-year prison term as the jury recommended.
At the Sept. 19, 2023, sentencing hearing, the defendant, who has been in custody since July 10, 2022, was given credit for the time she has already served.