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Judge orders woman to three years in prison

By JOHN FRANK
Published February 3, 2007


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INVERNESS - On one side of the courtroom Friday was David Roy, an 80-year-old Floral City man who can't hear well but still remembers the voice of his late wife Anita Roy, who died after a 2004 car wreck.

On the other side, a tearful Lorie Norris, walking with a cane and carrying the heavy baggage of a death she caused - and the personal mental demons who keep her up at night.

In the middle was Circuit Judge Ric Howard, grappling with how to apply the law to an emotional case in which both sides have suffered.

Prosecutor Bill Catto said he was glad he wasn't on the bench.

"This court is facing a very interesting and difficult decision," he told the judge.

Howard agreed but made up his mind. He turned to Norris, repeating his familiar refrain that the court's first aim is punishment, not rehabilitation.

"Despite all of the challenges you have, you should not have been in the car," he said.

The judge gave her three years in state prison followed by 12 years of drug offender probation for vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

Neither side was pleased with the outcome - Norris had been hoping for probation only and David Roy wanted 12 years in prison, the maximum allowed under the plea deal. Still, most felt the verdict was fair.

"I think it was a fair sentence and I appreciate the judge considered her mental condition in giving her a reduced sentence," said Norris' attorney, Paul Militello.

The lives of the two families collided on the morning of Sept. 19, 2004.

It was 11 a.m. on a Sunday. David and Anita Roy were headed to Cockadoodles Restaurant for brunch, a weekly outing Anita loved.

Family and friends described Anita as a bundle of energy, even at 86. She was a noted painter who specialized in large, vibrant acrylic works on canvas.

On that morning, Norris, then two years younger at 40, was driving a friend's car. She was disabled, still recovering from a serious car accident in Georgia that caused significant brain damage. Psychologists said she suffered from psychotic disturbances and delusional thinking.

Her driving record shows she received five citations for speeding and erratic driving in recent years. As Judge Howard said Friday, "Putting her on a roadway is just like a menace. She not really driving a car, she's aiming it."

The wreck occurred on U.S. 41. Norris was driving north when she swerved across the roadway into oncoming traffic, hitting the car driven by David Roy near the entrance to a church.

The head-on collision sent Anita to the hospital unconscious and seriously injured. She died about a month later from her injuries. David spent three weeks in the hospital and needed a hip replacement.

He told the judge that life is much different with his wife of 50 years gone.

"It's not easy now living alone," he said. "I hate to have my wife lose the last few years of her life. She didn't deserve it."

When it was Norris' turn to address the court, she could barely speak through her sobbing. She said she doesn't remember anything about the day of the accident.

"I'm very, very, very sorry for the loss," she said through tears. "I would never intentionally drive like this or do something like this on purpose."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or 860-7312.

[Last modified February 2, 2007, 20:41:54]


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