Starr Kiogima-McGill, the 28-year-old mother from Grand Ledge who was found guilty of causing the fatal drunk driving accident that took the life of her 4-year-old daughter, Natalie, has been sentenced to serve a long time in prison.
In the Eaton County Circuit Court just days ago, Judge Edward Grant, who presided over the case as a visiting judge from Jackson County and is actually now retired, sentenced her to 25 to 50 years in prison.
The sentencing was an emotional one, and unfortunately for Kiogima-McGill, not one that reflected well on her character. The judge spent some time expounding on her lengthy criminal history, which apparently stretched back to when she was 12-years-old, and also revealed the fact that during her short stay in the county jail while she waited for trial, she managed to accumulate no less than eight offenses.
The prosecutor’s detailing of her behaviors didn’t help her situation either. According to his explanations in court, Kiogima-McGill spent the weeks after her daughter’s death partying wildly in New York. He claimed that she drank heavily, used cocaine and heroin, and took the widely used and often deadly club drug MDMA, sometimes called “molly”.
It certainly sounds like callous and heartless behavior, especially for a woman whose poor choices just killed her daughter. But believe it or not, there is more to it than that. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest trials a person can endure. Being the cause of that loss only makes it worse.
While people who have learned to process and work through grief with healthy tools are more likely to come out the other side of this kind of tragedy somewhat intact, not everyone is equipped this well in life. Some turn to alcohol and drugs in a desperate attempt to numb the pain and provide them a temporary relief from the emotional agony that grips them.
For this young woman, she obviously already has a long history that involved poor choices and poor coping mechanisms. As her attorney tried to explain to the court during her sentencing, “She was consumed by the disease of alcoholism that she could not control,” and her daughter’s death “was an unintended consequence of the disease.”
Having compassion for people whose lives appear to be no more than a string of bad decisions, run-ins with the law, and selfish choices can be very hard. However, that is part of being a defense attorney – the deep and abiding belief that all people, regardless of their mistakes or failings, deserve a chance to be defended and given another chance.
While the possibility of 50 years in prison is extremely daunting, we can only hope that this young woman finds opportunities to forgive herself, overcome her addictions, and find some peace.