Lanie Richardson, the driver in a 2012 “car surfing” tragedy that killed one woman and injured another on East Valley Road, was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in state prison. In September, Richardson, 30, accepted a plea deal, under which an original charge of second-degree murder — for the death of 26-year-old Allison Meadows — was dismissed and Richardson pleaded no contest to felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license for a prior DUI conviction. As part of the agreement, Richardson also admitted to the special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury to the surviving woman, Lindsay Keebler, and to having a prior felony conviction on his record and serving time in prison.
Richardson’s sentencing hearing was heavily attended, with Meadows’s family and friends there, as well as District Attorney Joyce Dudley and several lawyers from her office. The courtroom was silent as photos of Meadows throughout her life were shown in a video, with songs including “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan playing in the background. A statement from Meadows’s mother, Lynn Rivera, was then read by Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen, who handled the case.
“I have had my heart and soul mutilated,” Rivera wrote, noting that Meadows was her only biological daughter. “Our family gatherings will never be complete again,” she continued, saying that Meadows’s loved ones miss her “humor, smiles, and hopefulness.” Rivera’s statement ended with remarks for Richardson, saying that Meadows’s loved ones hope that “the other parties involved change the course of their lives.”
Judge Jean Dandona, after handing down the sentence, also wished Richardson well in the future. “Mr. Richardson, good luck to you,” she said, adding that what happened was “indeed a tragedy for everyone.” Richardson spoke briefly, directing his comments to Meadows’s family. “I am truly sorry for what happened during this tragedy,” he said. “I hope they accept that.”
On the morning of June 6, 2012, after a night of reported drinking and cocaine use, Richardson, Meadows, Keebler, and Connor Clowers decided to go “car surfing” — sitting atop the hood of a car as it travels at high speeds — on East Valley Road, where there is a bump known to provide passengers with the sensation of riding a rollercoaster. Clowers would go on to tell authorities what happened, saying that Meadows and Keebler (25 years old at the time), rode on Richardson’s SUV while he drove over the bump three times at about 40 miles per hour. Clowers, who hadn’t been in the car during the first round, got back in when he thought they were done, but the three decided to do it once more. The fourth time, Richardson drove over the bump at 70-92 miles per hour, causing the women to fly off the car in different directions. Meadows skidded more than 200 feet and died of head injuries at the scene.
After the incident, Richardson and Clowers lied to police about their role in what happened, saying that they were Good Samaritans who happened upon the two women. Believing their story, the police didn’t check Richardson for alcohol, but Clowers later admitted to lying and witnesses would go on to attest to Richardson’s pre-accident drug and alcohol use.
After pleading in September, Richardson had his sentencing postponed until January to allow him, while remaining in custody, time to visit with his children. Jeff Chambliss, Richardson’s attorney, said that he has a young son and daughter.
Richardson’s 14-year sentence will be shaved down by nearly two years for credit for time served. How much restitution he will pay to Meadows’s family and to Keebler will be determined at a future date, Nguyen said, adding that once he is released, Richardson’s driving privileges will be determined by the DMV and that this conviction will count as the first strike on his record.
Janet Carroll, a friend who Meadows was living with at the time of her death, said after the sentencing that Meadows’s family and friends are glad that Richardson apologized. “The words came out, ‘I’m sorry,’” she said. She also referenced other recent tragedies — the deaths of Mallory Dies and Linda Wall — that involved alleged driving while intoxicated. “It’s the responsibility of the person who’s driving,” she said. “People need to make better choices. Period.”