For Christmas, Paul Browne bought his fiancee the complete works of Winnie the Pooh.
Dorene Carney was pregnant with his child at the time and the couple planned to read the stories to their daughter when she was born.
But three months later - and six months into the pregnancy - Browne was dead, killed in what his fiancee believes was a drunken-driving accident. Carney was left to raise their daughter alone.
Shane R. McDonald, 24, of Spokane, is to be sentenced today for vehicular manslaughter in Browne’s death. Carney and her 3-month-old daughter will be in the courtroom.
“Paul didn’t get to see his little girl and she didn’t get to grow up with him,” Carney said Tuesday, her arms wrapped around the baby.
Although all mention of drunken driving has been removed from McDonald’s charge, Idaho State Police say they believe alcohol contributed to the accident.
Cpl. Sean Daly said he also believes Browne would have lived if McDonald hadn’t been driving a jacked-up truck.
“I think Paul might have been injured, but he wouldn’t have been dead,” Daly said.
Carney and Browne met a little over two years ago. He was a lawyer and she a paralegal. The couple had planned to announce their plans to wed on Carney’s birthday. That date came two weeks too late.
Browne was on his way home to Coeur d’Alene on March 29, returning from Moscow.
He was driving his Honda Accord north up U.S. Highway 95. Six miles south of Tensed, Browne came around a curve and saw McDonald’s truck heading straight for him.
McDonald’s three-quarter ton pickup truck was jacked up at least a foot higher than a typical truck, Cpl. Daly said. As McDonald drove around the curve, he crossed the center line.
Browne tried to brake. The truck rammed into his car. The front bumper was so high, the truck ran right over the top of the car.
Browne was decapitated.
“It’s like playing leapfrog. You put your hands on someone’s back and jump over them,” Daly said.
Daly said he believes that there should be a limit on how high trucks can be.
Medical workers tried to take a blood sample from McDonald for alcohol tests. But they weren’t able to find a vein until four hours after the accident at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
By that time, his blood alcohol level was .08 - short of the .10 requirement to be considered a drunk driver.
McDonald has been charged with drunken driving at least twice before, according to Spokane County records. In both cases, the charges were amended to either reckless driving or negligent driving.
He has also been found guilty five times of driving without a license and once for drug possession, according to court records.
Benewah County Prosecutor Rich Christiansen charged McDonald with vehicular manslaughter for reckless driving but had to remove the language accusing McDonald of drunken driving because of the bloodalcohol reading.
Christiansen says taking out the drunken driving wording does not change the criminal charge. McDonald still faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Christiansen said he will recommend three to eight years in prison in court today.
“I don’t think it’s nearly enough,” Carney said, explaining she wants McDonald given the maximum. “I would like to see the judge and prosecutor take it seriously enough to keep him off the road.”
She and her daughter, Madeline, have attended every court hearing.
“Most girls have their Easter or Christmas dresses,” Carney said. “Maddie has her court dresses.”
Despite the difficulties, Carney said having Browne’s baby has made coping with his death easier.
Madeline goes to work with her mother every day. A crib sits in the conference room at the law office where Carney works.
At three months old, Madeline likes to sit in her mother’s lap while Carney types. She is fascinated by the blue computer screen and clicking keys.
“She’s so happy and smiley all the time,” Carney says. “You just can’t be down when you have someone smiling at you like this.”
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