Thursday August 9, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A woman whose SUV killed three women when it plowed into a group of pedestrians in upstate New York last summer has been indicted on criminally negligent homicide, vehicular manslaughter and other charges.

LuAnn Burgess, 56, was arraigned Wednes day and released without bail. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge. Phone and email messages left for her lawyer weren't immediately returned.

Burgess was driving recklessly and under the influence of drugs when her 2007 Toyota Highlander ran off a road, hit the women and crashed into a church in the Albany suburb of Voorheesville on Aug. 10, prosecutors said.

The SUV was going 38 mph on the quiet village street and accelerated to 46 mph just before running through part of a parking lot and hitting the women as they waited near the church for a companion, authorities said at the time. The SUV continued 70 or 80 feet, dragging two bodies as it ran under a covered church entryway, smashed iron railings and crashed into the brick wall of the bell tower.

Killed were 66-year-old Carol Lansing of Green Island, 79-year-old Rosemarie Hume of Waterford and 81-year-old Frances Pallozzi of Waterford.

Burgess told police she had just dropped a foster child at a nearby day program when her flip-flop interfered with the accelerator.


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Authorities said tests later showed she had the prescription anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs Xanax, Wellbutrin and Seroquel in her system.

The indictment handed up by an Albany County grand jury doesn't detail the medications or dosages, but it says her driving was impaired by a combination of drugs.

She's facing single counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and first-degree vehicular manslaughter, three counts of criminally negligent homicide and lesser charges of driving under the influence of drugs, reckless driving and speeding.

Albany District Attorney P. David Soares described the wreck as "one of the most tragic and complex motor vehicle crashes in this county's history." That's why it took almost a year and the involvement of numerous experts to untangle the crash for presentation to the grand jury, he said.