Driver in fatal hit-and-run gets 3 years in jail

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – The driver accused in a hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of Seekonk’s assistant town clerk was sentenced to jail time on Wednesday.

A judge sentenced Jacob LaCourse to four and a half years behind bars with three to serve. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Police said LaCourse was driving the car that struck and killed Karen McHugh back in January of 2015.

LaCourse, 24, changed his plea to guilty last month on charges of leaving the scene of an accident – death resulting, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Family photo of Karen McHugh
Family photo of Karen McHugh

McHugh was walking along Arcade Avenue at night because the sidewalks were covered with snow, according to police.

Police searched for months and finally arrested LaCourse last July after his father turned him in.

Prosecutors were seeking the maximum six and a half to 10 years in state prison.

McHugh’s wife, Sandy Lima, stormed out of the courtroom after the sentence was announced.

“It’s outrageous!” she exclaimed. “This was a loving, caring woman and she deserved better than what she got in this courtroom.”

Lima recalled finding McHugh’s body on the ground.

“The next day I had to pick up my wife’s blood and bury it,” she said. “That’s how profusely she bled.”

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn released a statement to Eyewitness News in response to the sentence.

“I am very disappointed in the sentence imposed by the court. The defendant was a pre-trial release with GPS monitoring for a rape charge at the time of this incident. Not only did he strike and kill the victim, but he fled the scene and left her to die in the street. He also destroyed evidence and never came forward despite public pleas for information from police and family members. The defendant deserved a substantial state prison sentence. Despite the inadequate sentence, I would like to commend the Seekonk Police Department and the State Police investigators from my office for their tenacity and perseverance in solving this most serious matter. I express my deepest condolences to the victim’s family for this totally tragic and unnecessary loss of life.”

LaCourse’s lawyer said it’s a tragic situation for everyone involved.

“I think it’s a very fair and just sentence,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “It was very similar to the sentence we requested.”

In deciding the sentence, the judge said LaCourse had no prior criminal record.

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