BURLINGTON COUNTY, NJ (CBS)– Melanie Cantwell was just 24 when she was killed in a drunk driving accident in Shamong Township in 2008. She was ejected from a car driven by James Mecchella, also of Shamong. He’s now serving an eight and a half year prison sentence for vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated. Mecchella’s previous driving record–which included a DWI in Woolwich Township–carried a lot of weight at sentencing.
On Friday, the Woolwich Township conviction was overturned, and Mecchella’s attorney Robert Agre says that without it, a Burlington County judge can consider a shorter term in Cantwell’s death.
“I would hope the court would reduce the term. If the court reduces it one level, it could be three-to-five years,” says Agre.
“It shouldn’t happen,” says Beth Cantwell, Melanie’s mother. “My daughter’s gone; she’s not coming back. His sentence should stand.”
Cantwell can’t believe the six-year-old Woolwich case was even reconsidered. She says it sends the wrong message, and she joins the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office in opposing any sentence reduction.
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Cantwell is now working on passing Melanie’s Law with New Jersey State Senator Dawn Addiego. The measure would identify a convicted drunk driver with a modified driver’s license.
“It’s another way to keep people safe on the roads,” says Cantwell.
An initial hearing date for sentencing is set for June 24.
Reported by Robin Rieger, CBS 3