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Family of fatal crash victim: "driver deserves more than a speeding ticket"

By PAT BAILEY

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - The family of a teenage girl killed in a car crash last fall says they want the driver of that vehicle, who happens to be a friend of the victim, to face a tougher penalty than a speeding ticket.

The family of Katelynn Sweet, the 16 year old victim of the fatal crash, says driver and the late Sweet's friend, Haley Shepard has yet to be charged or even receive a speeding ticket.

Another passenger in the crash, Karissa Lavine, is still in a wheelchair as a result of the accident and was also present at a protest Tuesday afternoon outside the Herkimer County Courthouse.

Despite the pouring rain, Katelynn Sweet's family and friends protested, chanting "we want justice" and "she won't come back, but we want justice," hoping their voices would be heard by the District Attorney, whose office is inside.

Many members of Sweet's family said Tuesday that because of her death, along with the injury to Lavine, someone needs to be held responsible. In their eyes, that someone is the driver - Haley Shepard.

"Yes the girls got in the car on their own, and I understand that, but they didn't choose the speed of that vehicle," said Jennifer Shoemaker, Sweet's Aunt. "When someone gets behind the wheel of a car, they take responsibility for everybody in that car. It was her responsibility to bring those girls home safe and she didn't do that.'

Herkimer County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Carpenter said Tuesday that after a long investigation, it was revealed that speed was a factor in this crash.

Based on the investigation, Carpenter said Haley Shepard will receive a speeding ticket, among other traffic violations.

As far as more serious charges, Carpenter said the way the law reads, there is no way to charge Shepard with vehicular manslaughter or negligent homicide.

"Without additional factors contributing to the accident, right now the only cause would be speed, and that does not rise to the level of criminal negligent homicide," Carpenter said.

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