Meredith Williams-Earle held a graduate degree in education and was a beloved Latin teacher at Interboro High School in Delaware County, where she spent her own money to purchase supplies and support her students.
On the morning of Aug. 6, 2013, the Lower Merion mother took a prescription sedative, swigged champagne, and filled a plastic cup with whiskey as she headed out the door.
Then she strapped her 2-year-old son into his loosely fastened car seat in the back of her Toyota Prius and set out to drive him to day care. At Spring Mill Road and Morris Avenue in Bryn Mawr, Williams-Earle sped through a stop sign and slammed into a flower delivery van.
Its 72-year-old driver died at the scene.
Now pregnant with her third child, Williams-Earle, 32, sat sobbing Tuesday in Montgomery County Court, apologizing and pleading for mercy.
"I wake every morning with the horrific realization that I am responsible for another family's suffering," she said.
Judge William R. Carpenter said the death of Winston Staats could not be overlooked. Turning aside her requests to be free before her baby is born, he sentenced Williams-Earle to nine to 23 months.
The sentence brought to an end a tragic case that even perplexed the jury.
Williams-Earle's blood alcohol content after the crash was 0.098, prosecutors said. She and her son suffered minor injuries.
At her March trial, her lawyer had argued that although she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, she only crashed because she turned to retrieve a piece of food for her fussy toddler in the backseat.
"Her running that stop sign and causing that accident was caused by the distraction," lawyer Christian Hoey said.
The jury convicted her of driving under the influence and reckless endangerment - including endangering her own child. But the panel acquitted her of DUI homicide - which carries a mandatory three-year prison term - and deadlocked on vehicular homicide.
By pleading guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter, she avoided a retrial.
"If you're drinking alcohol ... if you're speeding, if your child isn't properly restrained, and frankly, if you allow yourself to turn around and be distracted, all of those things can add up to recklessness," Assistant District Attorney Alec O'Neill said outside of court. "And if it kills somebody else, here a jail sentence is appropriate."
After the accident, Williams-Earle lost her job at Interboro, where one teacher said she had built the Latin program "from the ground up."
She went to an inpatient facility to treat her depression and alcohol addiction, and now works as an administrative assistant at a company in Wayne.
"This has cut her to the bone, I'd say," Timothy Earle, her husband, said in court Tuesday.
Williams-Earle said she still thinks every day about Staats, the Valley Forge Flower Co. driver.
While the judge rejected the request for a sentence that would end before her baby is born, Carpenter did compliment her making amends with her victim's family.
Staats' only son, who is in the Army and deployed in Germany, traveled home for the trial.
After the verdict, Jonathan Staats and Williams-Earle embraced. She offered an apology, and he offered forgiveness.
Carpenter said Williams-Earle could delay reporting to jail until Friday so she could visit her obstetrician. Her lawyer said she hopes to arrange a furlough to deliver her baby at a hospital outside of jail.