Mom outraged as drunk driver gets approval to leave prison during appeal process

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By Nicole Pence

FRANKFORT, Ind. (September 24, 2014)—A Frankfort woman will be able to post bond and leave prison after she was sentenced in April to five years behind bars for drunk driving.

Heather McDaniel pleaded guilty to two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated resulting in serious bodily injury in connection with the August 2013 crash that seriously injured Hunter Sellers, 12, and McKenna Sellers, 16.

McDaniel had a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit at the time of the crash. Police also found prescription pills in her SUV.

Police said the siblings were walking their bicycles home in the 2500 block of State Road 39 when McDaniel's SUV hit them.

"This is what my kids looked like the day they left for the video store. This is what they looked like the next time I saw them. This is a pedal that was left from the bike. To me, it reminds me, how close I was to losing my kids that night," said mother Tonya Sellers.

"I had two broken femurs. Two broken wrists, and my face was battered and broken," said McKenna Sellers.

On Wednesday, a court ruled Heather McDaniel could appeal, and she can also bond out of jail for $2,000 while the appeal process moves forward.

Tonya and McKenna Sellers are stunned.

"How do I know that she is not going to get into another car and kill a child next time?" asked Tonya Sellers.

McKenna Sellers added, "I am not mad at her, but I think she should finish her time."

McDaniel is in a Madison County prison. Her attorney, Jeffery Little, tells FOX59 McDaniel will likely bond out as early as Friday.

McDaniel will be free until the appeal decision is made, but is not allowed to drive.

The Indianapolis chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving issued a statement to FOX59 about this case. MADD wants the sentence upheld, and McDaniel in prison:

“Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash and in this case it was two innocent children who were simply out riding their bicycles. These two children, their parents, family and friends in addition to members of their community will forever be impacted by this tragedy that was one hundred percent preventable and our thoughts go out to the family right now as they continue down their road to recovery.

Furthermore, we would like this case to serve as a reminder of the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving, to designate a driver when consuming alcohol, and to encourage Indiana legislators to enact legislation that requires the use of ignition interlock devices to repeat offenders in order to prevent these avoidable tragedies.

MADD believes that our members of the judicial system and judges play an important role in the fight against drunk driving, ensuring that the punishments for drunk driving offenders are consistent and effective. MADD also believes everyone has the right to a fair trial, and if found guilty, should be convicted and sentenced to the full extent of the law. In this case, the offender submitted a plea of guilty to causing serious bodily injury when operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .21 per test results. And on April 23rd 2014, the defendant was sentenced to the Indiana Department of Corrections for a period of 5 years, 2.5 years for each child who was victimized.  This sentence has not yet been met as an appeal was filed for the offender to be released on a 2,000 bond, less than 6 months of time served.  Our thoughts go out to the victims as they continue to seek justice for their victimization of this crime.

Lastly, MADD Indiana would like to encourage judges to use the full power provided by law in each community across Indiana to determine appropriate sanctions for those convicted of drunk driving. In this case, we hope the sentencing of 5 years is upheld and the offender serves the time given for the crime of impaired driving she submitted a guilty plea for which impacted an entire family and will continue to impact them for the rest of their life” – Lael Hill, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Indiana