Woman may enter plea in deadly PTC crash

Thu, 01/31/2008 - 4:17pm
By: John Munford

Court hearing set for Tuesday; March wreck killed 2 men

A Fayetteville woman accused of causing the deaths of two men in a March auto crash in Peachtree City is scheduled to issue a guilty plea in Fayette County State Court Tuesday afternoon.

Melissa Painter, 24, is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide stemming from the wreck that killed Leonard Dunn and John Minaberry, both of Fayetteville. Dunn and Minaberry were driving north on Ga. Highway 74 in Dunn’s older model Porsche Targa when Painter, going south on Hwy. 74, attempted to turn left onto Aberdeen Parkway, police said.

The crash occurred as Painter's car pulled into the path of Dunn's vehicle, police said.

About two weeks after the charges were filed in the case, Painter was cited by Peachtree City police for driving under the influence, registering a .10 blood alcohol reading on the department’s calibrated machine July 14, police said.

Fayette County Solicitor General Jamie Inagawa, who prosecutes misdemeanor cases, said Wednesday that he couldn’t comment now, but he would do so once Painter’s case is concluded.

Inagawa wouldn’t reveal the details of the plea his office has approved. That document is only a recommendation to the court; State Court Judge Fletcher Sams has discretion to modify the sentence — or not accept the plea at all — if he chooses.

Typically when judges modify such sentences with a more harsh penalty than agreed to by prosecutors, defendants are given the opportunity to withdraw their plea before it is officially entered on the record ... and instead enter a trial.

Painter has already pled guilty to the DUI charge that was unrelated to the deadly crash. She was sentenced in October to 60 days in jail, including time served, and 12 months on probation, a $1,000 fine, 40 hours of community service and ordered to take random alcohol and drug tests and refrain from alcohol consumption. That DUI arrest came less than two weeks after she was formally charged with the vehicular homicide charges. She is also charged with failure to yield.

When Painter was released from jail a second time on bond Oct. 9, the court placed a condition on her bond that she be on house arrest with the exception of walking her child to the bus stop and attending counseling sessions. But according to a motion to revoke her bond filed Nov. 10, Painter violated those conditions, appearing at the Publix Supermarket at the Fayette Pavilion where the stepdaughter of one of the victims works.

The stepdaughter contends that Painter came by the store “to harass her,” the motion states.

According to that motion, Painter was told by the court that other than the two exceptions, she was to remain “under 24/7 lockdown.”

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