Driver in fatal Minneapolis hit-and-run gets 3 years

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2013 - 9:47 PM

Teisha Randle was admittedly high on prescription drugs when she struck and killed Austin Conley. His father, “a man of God,” says that he forgives her.

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Austin Conley was 20 years old.

Earl Conley thought a lot about what he would say when finally given the chance to face the woman who ran down his son on a downtown Minneapolis crosswalk six months ago.

He wanted to spew anger and hatred at Teisha Randle for the senselessness of Austin Conley’s death and vent frustration about how her foolish decisions that night snuffed out a bright and generous college student. But doing so, he reasoned, would ­dishonor both God and Austin. So he forgave her.

“I’ve been praying for you and your family because this was absolutely unnecessary,” he told Randle on Monday. “The tragedy in this is that unless you realize you must change, it can happen again.”

A Hennepin County judge sentenced Randle to three years in prison for two counts of criminal vehicular ­homicide at a hearing where the ­circumstances of the hit-and-run remained in dispute. What was clear: Randle, who had been partying with friends, struck the 20-year-old in a crosswalk at the corner of 3rd Street and 1st Avenue N. at 2:54 a.m. on Oct. 27, then raced from the scene. The Augsburg College student died of his ­injuries.

Randle, a 27-year-old pharmacy tech student and mother of two from St. Paul, was arrested days later. She pleaded guilty this month.

Attorney argued for probation

Randle’s attorney, Carolina Lamas, argued for probation, saying her client took responsibility for her actions. Lamas said Randle drank a single glass of wine that night and offered to be a designated driver for her friends. However, Lamas said, she took codeine and Percocet while celebrating a friend’s birthday and was high when she hit Conley and fled. Lamas maintained Randle didn’t know she struck a person, believing the damage to her windshield was caused by a rock.

When Randle saw news of the hit-and-run the next day, Lamas said, she called friends, asking if it may have been her. The friends reassured her that it wasn’t, yet at the same time were phoning in anonymous tips to police and giving statements that she had been ­drinking all night.

Randle cooperated fully after police contacted her, Lamas said. “She’s been torn up inside about what she’s done,” she said. “She did not intend to kill Mr. Conley.”

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Krista White, whose office argued for a four-year sentence, countered that it was ludicrous to suggest that Randle should receive a lighter sentence because she only recreationally took prescription drugs that night — although police allege she was drinking vodka from a bottle before heading downtown.

“To say ‘I didn’t drink but all I did was take Percocet and codeine all night long’ is an aggravating factor, not a mitigating one,” she argued.

A final prayer

Randle, who was taken into custody after the hearing, turned to Conley’s family, including his parents and three sisters, and apologized. “I do regret my actions. I take full responsibility for what happened,” she said.

As a deputy led her away, Earl Conley sat, running his thumb along the edge of a framed photo of his son as a boy. After he died, his sisters found a worn scrap of paper in his backpack. On it was a written prayer where he pledged to serve God by helping others.

“I’ll give of your love in me,” he had scribbled in pencil. “I’ll be strong and lift up those who are weak.”

It was the same strength his father relied upon, he said, to forgive.

“I am a man of God, and the truth is the truth even if it hurts,” he said. “And the truth is I have to.”

 

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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