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Driver sentenced in 2012 collision

Woman, 87, died two weeks later

POSTED: October 11, 2013 12:24 a.m.
 

Stefani Shepherd looked down for a moment before she glanced up and saw a sport utility vehicle passing through the intersection.

The light in front of her was red.

With no time to stop, Shepherd struck the side of the SUV.

Both vehicles spun around and she watched the Nissan Murano flip over at an intersection in the Cumming Square.

Nearly two weeks after the accident, 87-year-old Geraldine Holt, one of the SUV’s passengers, died from injuries suffered in the collision.

On Thursday morning, Shepherd recalled the June 15, 2012, incident before Forsyth County State Court Judge Russell McClelland.

Shepherd, 19, entered a no contest plea to the charge of second-degree vehicular homicide. The charge for failure to obey signs or control devices was merged.

As part of her negotiated plea, Shepherd will serve one year on probation, pay a $1,000 fine and have her license suspended.

She will also donate $100 to two charities chosen by Holt’s family and perform 100 hours of community service by speaking to teenagers who have received traffic citations.

The community service at the Reality Check program will allow Shepherd to share her story “because she’s been very remorseful and understands the impact of what occurred,” said Inez Grant, Forsyth County Chief Deputy Solicitor.

Shepherd showed her “great character” by meeting with Holt’s family to express her remorse shortly after the accident, before even contacting a lawyer, said attorney Peter Zeliff.

Based on her good grades in college and her recent selection as a resident adviser, Zeliff was confident Shepherd would be “successful” in completing the terms of her probation.

Steve Rhoades, who had been driving the SUV, and his wife, Jody, both wished the best for Shepherd in moving forward with her life during the court hearing.

That night, Steve Rhoades was driving his wife and mother-in-law home from a wedding, Grant said.

According to Grant, the SUV was upside down when Steve Rhoades pulled Holt out and Jody Rhoades suffered physical injuries leaving her with a “limited range of motion.”

Jody Rhoades, who attended by a video phone call, said her life has been changed by the accident.

“I’m also very aware of the loss Stefani and her family have experienced,” she said, noting that she has two daughters. “I’m still grieving, but I grieve for Stefani as well and the emotional pain she is experiencing.”

McClelland agreed that a tragedy like this affects at least two families, but he admired the character and understanding on both sides in this case.

 

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