Driver pleads guilty in fatal 2013 hit-and-run of Nicetown woman

 Candles, teddy bears and more mementos mark a memorial set up at the Nicetown corner where Ceeanna Pate (right) was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Oct. 2013. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Candles, teddy bears and more mementos mark a memorial set up at the Nicetown corner where Ceeanna Pate (right) was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Oct. 2013. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

A 46-year-old woman faces anywhere from one to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty on Thursday to the Oct. 2013 hit-and-run that killed 19-year-old Ceeanna Pate of Nicetown.

Terrie Fleming, of the 5900 block of N. Camac St., pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and involuntary manslaughter charges before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 19.

Fleming faces a mandatory one-year minimum sentence on the leaving-the-scene charge. Legally, the mandatory minimum was elevated to three years, but since Pate was killed before “Kevin’s Law” was enacted (June 2014), it doesn’t apply.

From the bench in Courtroom 1105, Lerner said that while Fleming faces up to 22 years and a $50,000 fine, “the sentence is not going to be anywhere close to the maximum.”

Evidence presented

Around 11 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2014, Pate was walking along Clarissa Street when she was struck by a speeding vehicle near Brunner St. Neighbors likened the sound of the collision to a bomb explosion, and a surveillance camera captured an image of the vehicle.

The mother of two would be declared dead at Temple University Hospital five days later. Several of her organs were then donated for three transplants.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb said Pate was thrown nearly 100 feet by the force of impact. Accident-reconstruction experts estimated the car traveling 55 miles per hour in a 25mph zone.

Lipscomb also noted a piece of broken headlight that police Officer Jeffrey Hannan found at the scene fit like a piece of a “jigsaw puzzle” when Fleming’s damaged vehicle was found in the 1200 block of W. Champlost St. Investigators also found blood in the cracked windshield, he said.

“She claimed something fell on her car, and that she was scared so she kept going,” he said of Fleming, who estimated her speed at “20 to 30 miles per hour.”

Post-hearing reactions

After the hearing, Fleming’s attorney Jeffrey Azzarano said his client is “very remorseful about what happened, and has been since day one. She is ultimately a good woman.”

Pate’s father Steven, who was among nearly a dozen supporters in court to see Fleming plead guilty, will now prepare a victim-impact statement to read at sentencing.

“We got closure as far as the legal process goes,” he said. “I’m satisfied that this woman will actually be going away to prison.”

Pate’s children were 4 and 2 years old at the time of their mother’s death. Her relatives said she was pregnant at her time of death, though that wasn’t reflected in the autopsy report.

The back story

Nearly three weeks after the hit-and-run, Fleming surrendered to police. She was released on $75,000 (10 percent) bail that night.

According to a civil suit filed in connection with the case, Fleming’s automobile insurance expired at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 4. Less than 24 hours later, she allegedly struck Pate.

At 2:34 p.m. the next day, Fleming went online and reinstated her lapsed Infinity Select Insurance Co. policy after stating there were “no incidents” involving her 2008 Dodge Charger while the policy was lapsed, according to a suit filed by the insurance company.

Criminal record

Court documents state that Fleming was arrested in July 2009 for driving under the influence, a charge for which she entered the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

The charge was expunged through the ARD program, so it won’t be factored in to the sentence.

In 2007, she pleaded guilty to an “obedience to traffic-control devices” charge and a year later, she pleaded guilty to several charges including driving an unregistered vehicle.

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