Woman gets 12 to 24 years in crash that killed firefighter

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A New Jersey woman has been sentenced to 12 to 24 years in prison in the death of a firefighter struck along with two other firefighters and a state trooper as they were responding to a crash on Interstate 76 in suburban Philadelphia more than a year and a half ago.

Jacquelyn Walker, 64, of Little Egg Harbor wept as the sentence was imposed Thursday in Montgomery County in the July 2021 death of 48-year-old Thomas Royds, a longtime member of the Belmont Hills Fire Department, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Walker pleaded guilty in October to third-degree murder, aggravated assault by vehicle and reckless endangerment. Authorities said she drove onto the shoulder and swerved into Royds, two other firefighters and a state police trooper who were responding to a 3 a.m. crash on the side of the highway.

Judge William Carpenter said Walker showed little remorse for what he called the “malicious conduct” of driving her 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee in severe disrepair with faulty brakes.

Walker tearfully apologized to friends and relatives of the victim, saying she never intended to hurt anyone.

“I’m not trying to make this devastating accident any softer; my only wish is to have Tom Royds’ family not hate me any longer,” she said. “I’m truly sorry.”

Authorities said Walker told investigators she left home hours before heading for a Quakertown mall but got lost trying to get home and had been pulled over three times by police from different departments. She said she drove onto the shoulder to try to avoid firetrucks she said she noticed only “at the last second.”

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