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The Journal Gazette

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Friday, November 03, 2017 6:30 pm

Woman pleads guilty in drunken driving crash

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne woman admitted Friday she was drunk when she caused a head-on crash, badly injuring her three children, a year ago.

Sarah J. Esterline, 35, pleaded guilty in Allen Superior Court to 12 charges, including three counts of neglect of a dependent, three counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury and three counts of criminal recklessness.

Judge Fran Gull will decide whether to accept a plea agreement following a scheduled three-hour sentencing hearing Jan. 12.

The proposed plea agreement didn't recommend a set length of time to be served behind bars or on probation, but said Esterline was "instructed to make the necessary arrangements for alternative sentencing."

Esterline told police she lost control of her vehicle while trying to tend to a child in the back seat. Esterline was driving on Hatfield Road about 8 p.m. Oct. 31 near the intersection of Pleasant Village Road when she crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming car.

Officers found Esterline hysterical and holding her small daughter in her arms. She told officers her children were injured and needed medical attention.

A Breathalyzer test showed Esterline had a blood alcohol level of 0.159 percent at 9 p.m. The legal limit in Indiana is 0.08 percent.

Police found an open Budweiser in Esterline's red 1998 Volkswagen Jetta, and a Bud Light on the floor of the back seat. She told police she had a shot of whiskey at 3 p.m. and three 12-ounce beers while trick-or-treating with her children, court documents said.

Her three children were transported to a hospital, two of them in critical condition.

Aidan Esterline, then 11, suffered a C1 vertebrae fracture and brain and lung bruising. Grant Esterline, then 10, suffered a skull fracture and bruising on the brain.

Hailey Esterline, then 3, sitting in the left rear seat had a bruised lung and dental trauma.

Two of the three people in the other car involved in the crash suffered minor injuries, according to a police report.

It said Esterline's car crossed into the eastbound lanes of Hatfield Road and then over-corrected. Her vehicle struck the oncoming car, then rotated and came to rest on the north side of the road facing west.

The other driver told police she and her two passengers saw Esterline's vehicle enter their lane and the driver tried to slow or stop, but it was too late.