The woman who ran over South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Andrew Steen will not be eligible for parole until she is in her mid-50s.
Rachel Coleman, 26, received the maximum 42-and-a-half year prison sentence Friday afternoon after she pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and her fourth DUI.
Steen has miraculously recovered from the injuries he suffered that day and he was able to address Coleman in the courtroom Friday. Coleman ran him over in the parking lot of a south Sioux Falls strip mall and many thought that if Steen did survive he would likely have to live in a nursing home.
"Someone that's going to make that conscious decision to step on the accelerator when there's a state trooper standing six-feet tall in front of their bumper is an individual that society deserves protection from," Lincoln County State's Attorney Tom Wollman said.
Fellow troopers and family members joined Steen in the courtroom Friday, including Captain Alan Welsh who says Steen has made a miraculous recovery. He remembers seeing Steen in the hospital in the weeks following the crash. Steen had to have part of his skull removed to relieve the swelling of his brain and his ankle was severely injured after Coleman ran it over.
"I thought his mom and dad and wife really summed up the situation the best when they talked about holding their breath because they just wanted to hear his heartbeat on those monitors. That's what it was like. You just kind of had that fear that thing was going to flat line," Welsh said.
Coleman was driving at more than three times the legal limit that October night in 2012. Her attorneys said she never set out to hurt anyone; instead she was scared and that's why she kept eluding authorities. Coleman apologized in court.
"I'm really, really sorry for the pain I caused to everybody. I never thought my drinking would bring me to this and cause so much destruction. I've had a rude awakening," Coleman said.
Steen's family did not speak to the media following the sentencing but Lincoln County State's Attorney Tom Wollman spoke on their behalf thanking the public for its support over the last year and a half.
"They were happy with the sentence as well. They also wish to extend their sincere appreciation for what they described as the overwhelmingly warm response that they've received from South Dakota," Wollman said.
Judge Joseph Neiles called this an ‘extremely serious’ case and that's why he handed down the maximum sentence.
Coleman's family declined to comment after court.