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Woman sentenced for hit-and-run accident linked to 92-year-old's death

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Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 2:46 pm | Updated: 12:10 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A Venetie woman was sentenced Monday afternoon to serve a more than five-year prison term for backing up and driving away after hitting and mortally wounding a 92-year-old woman in downtown Fairbanks.

Sonja Yatlin, 33, was behind the wheel of a vehicle May 31, 2011, that hit longtime Fairbanks resident and former rural school teacher Yolanda “Rocky” Rockar. Rockar died nine days later at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where doctors said the crash hastened her death.

At the sentencing, Yatlin apologized to Rockar’s family and sobbed intermittently — especially when a friend of Rockar addressed the court. But her acceptance of responsibility came late, said Superior Court Judge Michael MacDonald, who observed that Yatlin has 10 misdemeanor convictions, including a lengthy history of driving offenses.

On the day she hit Rockar, she had a suspended license and was on probation for reckless driving.

“This was not an accident, this was only a matter of time before something like this happened,” the judge said. “This was a reckless indifference to her status (as a driver with a suspended driver’s license) and to the danger she provided to the public.”

He stipulated that Yatlin will not be eligible for parole for at least two years.

Yatlin failed to attend multiple court hearings in the year-and-a-half between the crash and Monday’s sentencing, and a warrant was issued for her arrest after she missed a hearing in July.

While she was out of jail she picked up an additional, unrelated drug offense for possessing four hydrocodone (pain medication) pills and four alprazolam (anxiety medication) pills on May 5.

Yatlin pleaded guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to serve an additional 14-month sentence in that case Monday.

MacDonald had unusual latitude in deciding Yatlin’s sentence in the hit-and-run case.

Yatlin pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident without providing aid to the injured, an offense that unlike most crimes does not have a presumptive sentencing range. MacDonald was not required to give Yatlin any jail time but could have sentenced her to as much as 10 years in jail.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.

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