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Wrong-way drunk driver gets 15 years at emotional sentencing

9:10 AM, Feb 23, 2011   |    comments
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Long put it a different way shortly before an Adams County judge sentenced her to 15 years in prison on Tuesday.

"This is the reality of drunk driving," Long tearfully told Judge John Popovich.

On July 5, an extremely intoxicated Long made a fatal turn onto Interstate 25. For some reason, she decided to drive south in the northbound lanes of I-25.

Dozens of 911 calls started pouring in immediately after Long turned her Toyota Rav-4 onto the interstate at 120th Avenue.

"A car is going the wrong way!" one caller shouted.

"We just about had a head-on with him," said another.

Investigators suspect she was going around 75 to 80 mph at the time. Two miles down the road, she hit her first car.

It happened near Thornton Parkway. The car she hit ended up slamming into the median. That driver survived, likely only because he swerved at the last second.

Long continued driving. Nearly five minutes later she had driven another 5.2 miles.

David Swanson and his friend Mary Warren likely only saw a flash as Long's SUV approached Swanson's Honda Accord near 58th Avenue.

Warren, 22, had just graduated the month before from Colorado State University. She was getting ready to join the Peace Corps.

Swanson survived the crash with a fractured wrist. Warren died at the scene.

"Mary was a champion," Swanson told Judge Popovich on Tuesday. "She was a true believer in liberty and justice... She worked and worked and worked, and she prayed to God to give her a better life."

"It took this to stop her," he said.

Investigators say Long's blood alcohol content was .252, or more than three times the threshold for a DUI.

Long had apparently been drinking wine with friends that night. Adams County prosecutors were quick to call her an alcoholic on Tuesday, saying she used to drink to the point of "blacking out" maybe once every two weeks.

"Why did I turn to alcohol? I don't know," Long said on Tuesday. "Why did I not realize how reckless it was?"

"I wish there was something I could do to take the pain away. If this had to happen, I wish I could trade places with Mary. It should have been me, not her," she added, again fighting through tears.

Long voluntarily checked herself into a rehab facility four days after the crash. She told Judge Popovich she will try to spend the rest of her life telling people about the real casualties of drinking and driving.

Shortly before she was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs, her friends shouted, "We love you Betsy."

Long didn't have much of a chance to acknowledge their thoughts. She will start serving the 15-year sentence right away.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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