The mood was quiet in 16th Judicial District Judge Keith Comeaux’s courtroom Tuesday afternoon as Dylan LeBlanc, 27, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed a Franklin woman, her infant son and unborn child.
LeBlanc pleaded guilty to eight charges — two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of third-degree feticide, one count of aggravated obstruction of a highway, and four counts of vehicular negligent injuring. He was sentenced to 15 years each on the counts of vehicular homicide and obstructing a highway, and another five years on the feticide count, all to be served consecutively with no chance for parole for at least 30 years. He was also sentenced to five years on each of the four negligent injuring counts, to be served concurrent with the homicide charges. LeBlanc’s blood alcohol level after the accident was measured at 0.181, well over twice the legal limit.
He was also fined $15,000 for each of the two homicide counts and $2,000 for the feticide count. His high blood alcohol content and the fact that there were three persons killed exacerbated the harsh sentence.
Comeaux, prosecutor Craig Colwart and defense attorney Richard Spears all agreed that they had never worked such a horrendous traffic case in their collective years in the legal profession.
“This is the worst vehicular homicide or DWI case I have ever been associated with,” Comeaux said. “I cannot fathom what Mr. Sinitiere is going through. Even the defense witnesses can’t find many good things to say about Mr. LeBlanc. But the bad far overshadows the good.”
LeBlanc was driving at recklessly high speed on U.S. Highway 90 on the night of Aug. 7, 2018 when he lost control of the vehicle, crossed two lanes of roadway and careened across the median of the highway, hitting the front right fender of Abbie Suire Sinitiere’s minivan. In addition to killing Sinitiere, 22 and her son, Maxxon, 1, three other children in the van — Bentley Sinitiere, Jaiden Sinitiere and Marlee Sinitiere — suffered serious injuries. The two girls, Jaiden, now 13, and Marlee, now 12, were in comas, Jaiden for a week and Marlee for three weeks. Bentley was the only one to remain conscious through the whole ordeal.
A passenger in LeBlanc’s blue Silverado pickup truck, Steven Geer, 23, was also injured. LeBlanc suffered a crushed ankle and several broken bones, requiring a rod to be inserted into his femur. He eventually had a leg amputated below the knee.
As part of his evidentiary presentation, Colwart had Comeaux view two videos, taken from a dash cam on a semi truck the night of the crash, that showed LeBlanc pass the truck on the shoulder of the road then swerve back into the traffic lane, almost forcing another car off the road in the process.
Several members of the extended Sinitiere family spoke before Comeaux issued the sentence. Kristen Soileau, ex-wife of Abbie’s husband, Chris, and the mother of Jaiden and Marlee, broke down as she described the effects of the crash on her daughters.
“They are not the same,” she said. “Mentally, they are not the same. They have been through a lot and neither of them is the same. Marlee Rae still doesn’t walk. When people cry, she will tell them it will be better, but she doesn’t cry. She’’s emotionless.”
Her words caught in her throat as she told Comeaux that Marlee still blames herself for the crash because she wanted new shoes before school started back up.
“Marlee Rae thinks it was her fault,” Soileau said. “If she didn’t want shoes, they wouldn’t have gone.”
Tina Jackson, Jaiden and Marlee’s grandmother, laid out some of the changes in her granddaughters after the death of their mother.
“Before, they were loving children,” Jackson said. “Now, there are anger issues. Jaiden has anxiety real bad. She has emotional issues. Marlee has struggled. She had to learn again how to walk and talk. We had to teach her all that over again.”
Tiffany Clements, Abbie Sinitiere’s mother, was too emotionally distraught to take the stand, although she was in the courtroom. Instead, family friend Kayla Eiler read a letter Clements wrote. In it, she described Abbie as a friend and mother, a loving spirit who she did everything with, whether it be talking on the phone 20 times a day or taking care of the children.
“I miss everything about Abbie and Max,” Eilers read from Clements’ letter.
“We don’t know what to do with life now,” Clements wrote. “Life as we knew it is gone. My favorite people in the world are gone. Dylan could not destroy or hurt another family if he goes to prison for long enough. Dylan LeBlanc has taken precious lives. Our lives are changed forever. His life and his family’s lives should change as well.”
Chris Sinitiere, Abbie’s husband, also spoke. He recounted how he heard about the crash. At the time, he was in Miami on a job and had to fly back to Louisiana to watch over three of his children and handle funeral arrangements for his wife and son.
“I cried,” he said. “I found out about Abbie first. They didn’t tell me about Max until an hour later.”
The couple had been married for six years when the crash happened.
He also talked about how the crash affected his children, specifically how Bentley would cry out if a car hit a bump or if there were any sudden stops after the crash.
“I had to ride in the back with him,” Sinitiere said.
But even with the loss and pain, Sinitiere said he did not wish ill on LeBlanc.
“I forgive him,” Sinitiere said. “We all make mistakes.”
Spears called two witnesses, Dylan LeBlanc’s grandmother, Jeanne, and the mother of his children, Ariel McLeod.
Jeanne LeBlanc described her grandson as being remorseful and having regret over the incident.
“He would get up in the morning and say he had been thinking about what happened,” she said. “He’d go to bed thinking about it.”
After she spoke, Colwart asked the same question of each on cross-examination.
“Even after he knew he was going to be going away for years, he had another child?” McLeod and LeBlanc have two children, one 22 months old and one seven months old.
“Well yes,” Jeanne LeBlanc said.
McLeod said that she and LeBlanc had been together for four years and that the crash had changed him.
“He used to be very open and honest about everything,” McLeod said. “Now he keeps everything to himself.”
After Spears rested the defense, Colwart said he was asking for the harshest possible penalties under the law on each count, which would have resulted in 100 years at hard labor if all were to run consecutively.
“The worst type of offenses committed deserve the worst type of sentence,” Colwart said. “For what he did to these children, what he did to this family, what he did to this community, he deserves the harshest sentence.”
Colwart cited LeBlanc’s refusal to testify in his remarks, bringing a response from Spears.
“That was my decision,” Spears said. “You cannot use that to impugn my client.”
Comeaux made the point moot.
“That’s not going to have a whole lot of effect on the court, whether he took the stand or not,” Comeaux said.
In laying out the sentence, Comeaux pointed to one of the inclusions in the initial State Police report of the crash.
“Steven Geer said that LeBlanc asked him, ‘Are you ready to die?’” Comeaux said. “That imparts to me that he intended to kill himself and his passenger.”
As he began reading out his sentence, LeBlanc looked disinterested, as he had during most of the testimony, but visibly straightened as Comeaux began rolling off the years at hard labor for each count.
Overall the courtroom response was muted, with the family on the LeBlanc side silent, the Sinitiere side crying and wiping tears.
After the hearing, as the two families left, LeBlanc remained at the defendant table, standing with his attorney, with two bailiffs flanking him. He was booked into the Iberia Parish Jail, where he will remain until the Department of Corrections takes custody of him.