Woman sentenced for hit and run that injured Falls Creek jogger

BROOKVILLE — Wednesday, a Reynoldsville woman who struck a jogging Falls Creek woman and fled the scene July 19, 2011, was sentenced to time in the Jefferson County jail.

Felicia Marie Steele, 48, Reynoldsville, struck Cindi A. Lingenfelter, 32, Falls Creek, with her 2003 GMC Sierra pick-up while Lingenfelter was jogging south on Route 950.

Steele then fled the scene, police said.

Lingenfelter suffered severe injuries and was flown via medical helicopter to Altoona Hospital for treatment, police said.

Police said the investigation developed evidence at the scene, and troopers then located Steele, who was taken into custody, charged with felony and misdemeanor charges and committed to the Jefferson County jail.

Wednesday, Judge John Foradora said he was sentencing Steele to the longest time in jail and probation permitted by law.

Steele was placed on Restricted Intermediate Punishment (RIP) and must pay all costs of prosecution and other fees.

For the aggravated assault charge, Steele received a $2,000 fine and must serve 14 months in the Jefferson County jail with work release.
She may have no contact with the Lingenfelter family.

Foradaora said she would receive an additional two years on the accident involving death or personal injury to run consecutive to Steele’s other sentence.

Steele was also sentenced an additional five months on to the reckless endangerment charge, an additional $500 fine and three months of electronic house arrest once she’s released.

Foradora added another year for intermediate punishment for not using a required DUI interlock device in her vehicle.

Steele’s total sentence is 11 years on RIP at the Jefferson County jail with work release, he said.

Foradora said after Steele is released, she will have a total of six months of electronic house arrest.

“With this sentence, you’ll (Steele) be in a position to keep your job, house and go on with your life,” Foradora said. “Any violation will result in a state sentence.”

Foradora said Steele’s sentence is below the minimum of state time if Lingenfelter would have died as the result of the accident.

Speaking at Steele’s sentencing Wednesday, Lingenfelter said she woke up in an Altoona Hospital two days later and did not know the extent of her injuries until she was released to go home. She said she suffered a brain hemorrhage, concussion and many broken bones that couldn’t be casted.

Lingenfelter said when she returned home to Falls Creek, it was hard to sleep, and she underwent physical therapy that involved excruciating pain.
She returned to work on Columbus Day last year, but didn’t realize how difficult it would be to work in constant pain.

“I’m consumed by pain, and you (Steele) didn’t have the decency to stop or turn yourself in to the police,” Lingenfelter said.

Lingenfelter said she suffered from much anxiety when Steele was released just before Christmas last year from jail after serving time for a DUI.

“This defendant should pay for her crimes like never before,” she said. “Steele should receive a lengthy state prison sentence with no work release.

“She (Steele) never worried about her job prior to the accident, so why worry about it now,” Lingenfelter said.

“I went from being a vibrant 32-year-old woman to a 33-year-old woman with the aches and pains of a 97-year-old woman,” she said. “Those two days I was in the hospital are lost, and I’ll never get them back.”

Lingenfelter said Steele needs to pay for her crimes and realize the seriousness of what she has done.

Gary Knaresboro, Steele’s attorney, said Steele had asked to have contact with the victim, but he didn’t think it was a good idea.
“Steele is willing to accept responsibility with an open plea,” Knaresboro said.

Pam Krise of DuBois, Steele’s mother, said her daughter would never hurt anyone and has distanced herself from her friends that drink alcohol. She has also undergone counseling and done everything asked of her.
Krise also said a state sentence would mean that Steele would lose her job of 22 years.

Steele said she was sorry for the unfortunate accident.

“Hearing of her (Lingenfelter’s) injuries upsets me very much,” she said. “I’m asking for county time so I won’t lose my job, and I have farm animals that I’m responsible for, and I wouldn’t be able to see my grandchildren.

“I’m very sorry for all that you’ve gone through; I was distracted by something inside my vehicle while I was driving,” Steele said.

Foradora asked Steele if she was drunk at the time of the accident. She replied that she didn’t believe that she was.

Foradora said he has taken everything into consideration and what was said in court Wednesday before pronouncing her sentence.

“Most people tested for DUI felt they weren’t drunk, which is the justification when an accident happens since most of the evidence is circumstantial,” Foradora said.

“Fortunately, no one died from this accident, but Ms. Lingenfelter will have a lifetime of injuries to deal with for the rest of her life,” he said. “I looked at the state guidelines above and below the standards. There are many people who would rather serve time at county instead of the state.

“Ms. Lingenfelter said Steele serving county jail time did her no good,” Foradora said. “The recommended sentence for this type of crime, six to 18 months, is not long enough.”