The woman charged with killing their 19-year-old daughter in an October hit-and-run had just left the Criminal Justice Center after waiving her right to a preliminary hearing on Wednesday morning.
In a third-floor hallway, Ivy and Steven Pate and supporters spoke with Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb about the possibility that Terrie Fleming, 46, could plead guilty in the Nicetown case at a future hearing.
Lipscomb noted she could face only a one-to-two-year minimum sentence for leaving the scene of an accident as part of a potential plea deal. The group rued how paltry that seemed in comparison to sentences for DUI homicide by vehicle, which is not one of the charges filed against Fleming.
Then, Ivy Pate pointed to the manila envelope she was holding and said “she knew she hit someone” of Fleming, who will return to court for an April 2 arraignment.
Inside that envelope was the copy of a civil lawsuit filed against Fleming and, unexpectedly to them, the Pates.
If what the suit states is true, Fleming’s automobile insurance expired at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 4. Less than 24 hours later, she allegedly struck Ceeanna Pate near Clarissa and Brunner streets.
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.
If effective, the suit could insulate the company from any potential lawsuit from the Pates.
Family, attorney reaction
However, the Pates think that this suit serves as a positive. To them, it’s proof that Fleming knowingly tried to cover-up a crime.
When leaving the courtroom, NewsWorks asked Fleming’s attorney Jeffrey Azzarano why his client gave up her right to a preliminary hearing.
“She understands what the evidence is at this point,” Azzarano said of the overarching case. He does not represent Fleming in the civil matter.
For their part, Ceeanna’s parents remain heartbroken about the loss of their daughter.
“I don’t feel bad for her,” Ivy said of an alleged hit-and-run driver charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and, among other charges, reckless endangerment. “She should have come forward as soon as it happened. What I feel for her is shame. She’s too old not to know better.”
Steven Pate then spoke about how Ceeanna’s two young children (ages 4 and 2) will never see their mother again. Wednesday marked the first time he and Ivy had seen Fleming in person.
“I felt disgusted when I saw her,” he said. “If only she stayed at the scene to take responsibility for what she’d [allegedly] done, I wouldn’t have this anger inside me. But she just left my daughter there to die. If there wasn’t video [of the suspected hit-and-run vehicle], she would have gotten away with it.”
The back story
Around 11 p.m. on Oct. 4, Pate was walking along the side of Clarissa Street when she was struck by a speeding vehicle near Brunner St. in a collision that neighbors likened to the sound of a bomb explosion. The driver fled the scene, but a surveillance camera captured an image of the vehicle.
The mother of two would be declared dead at Temple University Hospital five days later after several of her organs were donated for three transplants.
Nearly three weeks after the hit-and-run, Fleming of the 5900 block of N. Camac St. surrendered to police. She was released on $75,000 (10 percent) bail that night, and remained free Wednesday when she wore a dark pantsuit to Judge Charles Hayden’s courtroom.
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.
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.
Those charges would not be admissable in a potential future trial, Lipscomb acknowledged to Ceeanna’s family and friends on Wednesday.