Bedford mother found guilty of driving drunk in crash that killed son

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) Jurors have sentenced a Bedford County mother to 9.5 years in prison after finding her guilty on charges related to a deadly car crash.

Emily Aponte testifies in her own defense during a trial in Bedford County April 29, 2016.

Emily Aponte was convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter for the death of her six-year-old son, Ethan. He died just a few hours after Aponte crashed her car on Quarterwood Road in Montvale back in 2014.

Right after the wreck, Aponte told a witness she'd been drinking and asked her not to call 911.

Prosecutors say those actions were criminal.

"We were just very glad that the jury came to the conclusion that it did as to the offenses," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, John Wheelock.

"I don't believe she was intoxicated," said Aponte's attorney, Dirk Padgett. "Her husband doesn't believe she was intoxicated. Troopers don't believe she was intoxicated. The bottom line is she did something very stupid that made it look like she was guilty."

Aponte was also found guilty of seriously injuring a man named Danny Dooley, who was injured in the 2014 crash. Jurors also convicted Aponte of child abuse and driving drunk for the second time in less than 10 years.

Aponte was found not guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, but was convicted of a lesser involuntary manslaughter charge.

Her attorney plans to appeal.

ORIGINAL STORY

Jurors are deliberating the case of a Bedford County mother, charged in connection with a car crash that killed her son and injured another man two years ago.

Emily Aponte is charged with aggravated involuntary manslaughter, maiming, drunk driving, and child abuse. Jurors started deliberating Friday afternoon, following four days of testimony.

The final witness in the case was Aponte herself. She took the stand Friday morning and told jurors about crashing her car on Quarterwood Road in Montvale on April 26, 2014.

"It was the worst day of my life," Aponte said through heavy tears, as she answered questions about the crash.

"It was like a dream," Aponte said. "It didn't seem real."

Prosecutors said Aponte's actions before, during, and after the crash were criminal. They accused her of being intoxicated when she got behind the wheel.

Aponte said she was sober. The wreck, she said, was caused by a simple mistake on her part: taking her eyes off the road to speak with her son in the back seat.

"I had to turn completely around and I said 'what Ethan?' As I asked him what he said and I turned back around, the airbag hit me," Aponte described.

Immediately after the crash, prosecutors said Aponte's concern was not about her son or the man she hit, but about three beer cans she had in her car.

She got out of her wrecked vehicle and hid the beer in some nearby woods.

"That was a very stupid thing to do, wasn't it?" Aponte's attorney, Dirk Padgett asked her while she was on the witness stand.

"Yes," Aponte answered. "It was very stupid. I should not have done it."

Aponte admitted to drinking excessively the night before, and having a few drinks after the wreck on her way to the hospital, but she said she was sober when the crash happened.

She doesn't believe alcohol had anything to do with her crash, or the actions she took right after the crash.

"I was screaming, I was crying," Aponte said. "I was just erratic and I was in shock. It was like a bad dream."

If convicted Aponte could receive a punishment of up to 20 years in prison for aggravated involuntary manslaughter, the most serious of the four charges she faces.