(MY CENTRAL JERSEY) -- Helene Seeman's two sons lost their mother on June 27, 2010, in a car crash caused by a speeding, drunken driver.
Locane-Bovenizer's daughters on Thursday saved their mother from a
longer prison sentence for her conviction in Seeman's death more than
two years ago.
41, a former TV and film actress who married and became a stay-at-home
mother in Hopewell, was sentenced to just three years - the minimum
allowed by law - in state prison by presiding Superior Court Judge
Robert Reed, even though the prosecution had requested a sentence of up
to nine years.
will serve fewer than 31 months before she is eligible for parole,
followed by three years of post-release supervision and a driver's
license suspension of more than five years. The 81 days she has spent in
Somerset County Jail since her conviction in November will be counted
as part of her sentence.
Locane-Bovenizer also may be eligible for a halfway house in six months.
shocked. No one saw this coming," Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor
Matthew Murphy said afterward. "The county prosecutor is contemplating
also must pay more than $12,900 in fines, including four motor-vehicle
violations for driving while intoxicated in Montgomery and Princeton on
the night of the accident.
sentencing in the packed Somerville courtroom was the latest emotional
chapter in a two-year legal saga that brought no closure to the families
torn apart by the 2010 crash.
case drew public attention in part because Locane-Bovenizer starred in
the original 1992 season of the TV drama "Melrose Place" and played
opposite Johnny Depp in the movie "Cry-Baby."
The Locane-Bovenizer family still faces a federal lawsuit filed by the Seemans.
making the unusual move of punishing a second-degree offense with a
third-degree sentence, Reed said Locane-Bovenizer's children -
particularly her 4-year-old daughter, Avery, who suffers from Crohn's
disease and requires a feeding tube in her nose - should be considered a
Also taken into account was Locane-Bovenizer's prior record, with only a 2001 arrest for simple possession of marijuana.
all due respect, I cannot, considering of all the factors that stand
here, treat innocent children as collateral damage," Reed said,
addressing the Seeman family and their friends.
have no sympathy for an adult who chooses to drink and drive," Reed
said, turning to Locane-Bovenizer. "The harm caused to your daughters is
caused by you. The dilemma this court faces is whether the crime of the
mother shall be visited upon the children."
initially had been facing five to 10 years for vehicular homicide, a
second-degree crime, and another three to five years for third-degree
assault by auto for the injuries suffered by Seeman's husband, Fred.
Several of his ribs were broken.
was convicted by a Somerset County jury, which acquitted the actress of
aggravated manslaughter, for which she could have faced 30 years in
Fred Seeman and his son, Ford, shouted at the judge and stormed out of the courtroom.
a sick child doesn't give you a pass to kill my wife!" Fred Seeman
said. "What were you thinking of, judge? You don't understand it!"
Before the sentencing, Locane addressed the Seeman family for the first time since the trial began. She had declined to testify.
made a terrible choice to get behind the wheel. I put the general
public, Helene, you and myself at risk," she read from a prepared
statement that lasted nearly four minutes. "Please know that the reality
that I did cause you such loss haunts me every day and will continue to
haunt me for the rest of my life.
pledge to you that I will spend the rest of my life making sure that
people understand the tragic effects of drinking and driving so that
Helene Seeman will not have died in vain."
wife, his high-school sweetheart and wife of 38 years, was killed
almost instantly when Locane-Bovenizer rammed her SUV into the passenger
side of the Seemans' Mercury Milan, just as the family was pulling into
the driveway of their seasonal Montgomery home.
Locane-Bovenizer was traveling up to 18 mph above the posted 35 mph
speed limit on the winding, residential Cherry Hill Road. Her
blood-alcohol level later was recorded at nearly three times the legal
limit of 0.08 percent.
She was coming from
a family friend's barbecue, where she had been drinking wine. Earlier
in the evening, she drank beer and wine at a party.
defense never denied Locane-Bovenizer was drunk, but did try to shift
some blame onto a woman who tailed Locane-Bovenizer for nearly 4 miles
after being rear-ended by her. The defense also made much of the fact
that Fred Seeman made a left turn into his driveway, crossing
Locane-Bovenizer's lane when she had the right of way.
Seeman's 86-year-old mother addressed the court and delivered an
abridged but proud biography of her late daughter's life. Helene Seeman
worked for Prudential, purchasing art for the company's properties,
before starting her own art business. She survived the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, but she and her family were shut out of their Battery
Park City home for months.
never complained," Marcia Zucker said about her daughter, bringing
Locane-Bovenizer's mother, Helen, to tears. "My only regret is that I
was not there that weekend. Had I been, I would have been in the
passenger seat. Why should I be here and she not be here?"
feel that people have forgotten who the victims truly are," Ford said
in his statement. "The defense in this case blamed the tragic death of
my mother on my father and other good Samaritans who were trying to do
the right thing by getting a drunken maniac off the road. My mother was
murdered and the woman who did it tried to blame it on my dad."
After the sentencing, a crying Helen Locane said her daughter was "a good girl" and expressed remorse for the Seemans.
"I'm glad that the girls will have their mother back sooner," she added.