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When Harmony Stair's unborn son's heartbeat stopped, doctors performed an emergency caesarean section. The boy died two days later.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
CHRISTIANSBURG —Harmony Stair testified Wednesday that she has no recollection of drinking alcohol on the day she got into a wreck that fatally injured her unborn child. But her son, who died two days after being delivered by emergency caesarean section, was born with a 0.11 percent blood-alcohol content.
Stair, 33, of Pulaski County, was sentenced Wednesday on charges of involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence.
Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long sentenced Stair to 10 years with four suspended on the involuntary manslaughter charge and 12 months on the DUI. She will be placed on four years of supervised probation upon release, and her driver’s license will be suspended indefinitely.
According to a summary of the evidence and testimony, on Dec. 18, 2011, Stair pulled onto U.S. 460 from North Main Street in Blacksburg without yielding to a vehicle. The driver of that vehicle, which was traveling about 55 mph, had no time to brake and struck the driver’s side of Stair’s car about 1:15 p.m.
Stair, who was then living in Blacksburg, had 200 Jell-O shots in her car at the time of the crash. She required immediate attention for a ruptured diaphragm and other injuries and was airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
At seven and a half months pregnant, Stair had a 0.156 percent blood-alcohol content when her blood was drawn at the hospital about an hour after the crash, Montgomery County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen said. That’s almost twice the state’s legal limit to drive.
Because hospitals have a different way of calculating blood-alcohol content, Jensen has said a toxicologist would have testified that Stair’s level would have been at 0.13 percent if tested at the scene of the crash.
Her unborn child’s heartbeat was monitored after the wreck, and when the heartbeat stopped, doctors performed an emergency caesarean section about 3:55 p.m. the day of the crash, Jensen has said.
The boy, named Caiden, was able to make “gasping efforts only” and was put on a ventilator. On Dec. 20, 2011, after Caiden’s health had deteriorated, the family chose to remove him from life support, Jensen has said.
His death was determined to be caused by blunt force injuries to the head and a complication of placental abruption.
Stair gave conflicting statements to officers but told them that she was taking the Jell-O shots to a Christmas work party at the restaurant 622 North in Blacksburg.
She at first denied drinking the shots, which contained alcohol, but she later said she had tasted a shot and finally said she drank less than a shot, Jensen said.
Stair testified that the shots were made with tropical vodka and Pedialyte — a “funny joke because I was pregnant,” she added.
She said she did not drink anything other than juice on the day of the crash. She said she remembers loading the shots into her car and noticing it was a nice day. The next thing she knew, she was in the hospital, she said.
Stair said she had a panic attack when a detective later asked her if she “did it on purpose.” When Jensen asked her why the detective would ask that, Stair said it was because she had abortion paperwork in the car. But, she said, that was just because she had not cleaned out her car in some time.
Stair gave birth to a girl at the end of July, who is now living with her paternal grandmother in Henry County. According to testimony, Stair has joint custody of the child, but the baby was temporarily removed from her home because family members were concerned Stair was still drinking.
Jensen asked her if her fiance’s family members caught her passed out drunk or drinking while breast-feeding, but Stair said that was not true.
“Everybody’s all freaked out about what I did with Caiden,” Stair said. “I just want to raise my daughter. She’s beautiful.”
Jeff Sharpe, Stair’s fiance and father of the newborn girl, said Stair is a loving mother who is “really attentive” and never wants to “let the baby go.”
When questioned by her lawyer, Jimmy Turk, Stair admitted that she has a drinking problem and wishes to get help.
“What happened with Caiden was horrible, and I never wanted that to happen,” she said while crying. “It was horrible.”
Jensen pointed to Stair’s first DUI arrest in February 2006, for which she later received a suspended sentence.
“Lessons not learned are often repeated, and unfortunately, this time, it had fatal results,” Jensen said.
While Stair was out on bond for the charges related to Caiden’s death, she was charged with drunk in public in Botetourt County. She received a $25 fine, according to online records.
“This is just about as bad as it gets,” said Long, the judge. “When a baby, still in the mother’s body, in the womb, is killed because of her … intentional act.”
He ruled that Stair will be required to complete a substance abuse program while incarcerated.
“You’ve not been truthful in here,” Long said. “You know how much you drank.”
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