Las Vegas Sun

March 20, 2019

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Woman sentenced in crash that killed young girl

A woman who ran a stop sign and hit another car with her SUV, killing a 7-year-old girl, was sentenced to two years' probation, 100 hours community service and a $1,000 fine on Wednesday by Las Vegas Justice of the Peace William Jansen.

Jansen, however, made it clear that should 57-year-old Sharon Rapstad commit a traffic infraction or be the subject of an alcohol related citation over the next two years, he would not hesitate to order her to serve six months at the Clark County Detention Center.

Rapstad pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of failure to stop at a stop sign. The crash that followed killed 7-year-old Debbie Blinder.

Rapstad's Chevy Suburban hit the car in which Debbie was a passenger when Rapstad drove through the intersection of Hualapai Way and Desert Inn Road on Sept. 23. Blinder's 4-year-old son was taken to University Medical Center where he was in critical condition before recovering.

The Blinder family criticized the county for not installing a full traffic signal at the intersection. Since the incident the county has put in the signals.

The Blinder family told Jansen they didn't feel Rapstad should go to jail.

Rapstad's attorney, Al Lasso, said the "whole system is about making the victim whole again, but tragically there is nothing that can be done to make Debbie (Blinder) whole again, she (Rapstad) could have been sentenced to 100 years in prison and that unfortunate reality wouldn't have changed."

Lasso said Rapstad has also reached an agreement with the Blinder's civil attorney that will see Rapstad pay $500 a year for 10 years for a scholarship in the name of Debbie Blinder at The Hebrew Academy.

Every year the Blinders will award the scholarship to the student who displayed the most qualities similar to that of their daughter.

Lasso said the fact no alcohol, speeding, medication or cell phone use was the cause of Rapstad running through the stop sign, but instead "the sun being in her (Rapstad's) eyes" made the matter that much more tragic because it was truly an accident.

On May 4 Gov. Kenny Guinn signed a law creating the misdemeanor crime of vehicular manslaughter -- when a driver causes the death of another person through simple negligence such as talking on a cell phone, eating or putting on makeup.

Lasso said because the facts of the case pointed to no negligence on Rapstad's part he doesn't feel the new law would have applied.

The penalties if convicted of the new charge include putting the incident on the driver's record and suspending a license for one year. A conviction also could result in a sentence of up to six months in jail.

The lack of such a law has been a concern in Las Vegas, where a high pedestrian death rate has plagued the valley. From 1994 to 2002, Nevada's per-capita pedestrian death has been among the 10 highest in the nation.

A Las Vegas Sun investigation last June showed that during the previous 18 months, 81 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed by vehicles on the roadway.

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