Coeburn woman sentenced to 25 years for fatal crash


WISE, Va. (WJHL) – A Coeburn woman has been sentenced to more than 25 years in prison for a fatal crash that happened while she was trying to elude police at a DUI checkpoint.

The Wise County Circuit Court sentenced Samantha Rae Dennis, 38 of Coeburn, to 42 years with 16 years and three months suspended, meaning she will spend 25 years and nine months in prison.

Dennis was convicted in August 2018 of felony murder and two counts of assault and battery with a motor vehicle.

According to investigators, on December 16, 2016, Dennis was traveling east on US Highway 58A near Coeburn when she came upon a DUI checkpoint, made a U-turn, and began traveling into oncoming traffic at a high rate of speed. Her vehicle ended up colliding head-on with another vehicle.

The crash killed the other driver, 32-year-old Rebecca Williams Starling, and injured her 5-year-old and 2-year-old children.

Investigators say Dennis told police that she had taken prescription medication, specifically Xanax, Klonipin, and Subutex the day before the wreck.

“Two children horrifically lost their mother and were permanently injured just before Christmas Eve in 2016,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp in a news release Tuesday. “A beautiful, promising, young life was tragically cut short because of one person’s senseless act of selfishness.  Samantha Dennis chose to run from police to avoid getting a ticket.  Today, we asked the court to impose the maximum sentence available to ensure that she could not run from the punishment she deserves. We pray for healing for the victim’s family, and that they can find comfort in receiving justice today.”

After she’s released from prison, Dennis will be placed on indefinite probation.

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