A woman who killed a motorist in Stafford County last year while driving with what a prosecutor described as a “cocktail of drugs and alcohol” in her system was ordered Monday to serve seven years in prison.
Rachel Elizabeth Clayton, 34, of Stafford was sentenced in Stafford Circuit Court to 20 years, with 13 years suspended. She was previously convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Jan. 24, 2019, death of 31-year-old Omio Chowdhury of Stafford.
Judge Bruce Strickland’s sentence was near the top of the recommended state sentencing guidelines, which called for a sentence ranging from three years and two months to seven years and eight months.
According to the evidence, Chowdhury was on his way to work that afternoon when his Nissan Rogue was struck head-on by a Nissan Xterra driven by Clayton.
Clayton’s vehicle was heading north on Shelton Shop Road when it went off the right side of the road, hit a mailbox and came back across the road, striking the victim’s vehicle in the area of Shelton Shop and Winding Creek roads.
Lab tests showed that Clayton had alcohol and multiple drugs in her system at the time, including cocaine, Xanax, suboxone and marijuana.
In court records, she is quoted as saying she hit a puddle and over-corrected.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen asked for a lengthy prison sentence. He said the “senselessness of this crime is beyond words. Everyone in this courtroom wants this to have never happened, but no one can have that.”
Olsen argued that Clayton remains a danger to the community, pointing out that she tested positive for cocaine in July of last year after being released on bond. Clayton has been in the Rappahannock Regional Jail since then.
Defense attorney Chris Brigante argued that a lengthy prison sentence is not necessary, saying that having to think about what happened to Chowdhury for the rest of her life is deterrence enough. Brigante also pointed out that Clayton had no prior criminal record and shouldn’t be judged solely on the “worst mistake she’s ever made.”
Clayton’s 13-year-old daughter asked Strickland to give her mom a second chance. Her sister, Rebecca Hess, described a horrible childhood that Clayton and her siblings endured with a bipolar mother and poor treatment in foster care.
“She’s been through a lot,” Hess said. “I don’t want her to just be tossed away and looked at as a horrible criminal.”
Just before her sentence was announced, Clayton apologized profusely to Chowdhury’s family. A short time later, she was heard sobbing loudly on her way back to lockup while her supporters did the same in the hallway.