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James O'Donnell pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter in death of Kristen Iacono

James O'Donnell, center, of Centereach, pleads guilty to

James O'Donnell, center, of Centereach, pleads guilty to charges in court in Riverhead on Monday, July 14, 2014, in connection with the death of Kristen Iacono, 26, of East Setauket, on May 23, 2012. Credit: James Carbone

A Centereach man pleaded guilty Monday to vehicular manslaughter, shortly before his trial would have begun on charges of killing an East Setauket woman while driving drunk.

James O'Donnell, 49, admitted he was intoxicated after drinking four or five beers when he hit a car driven by Kristen Iacono, 26, on May 23, 2012, at the intersection of Holbrook Road and the north Long Island Expressway service road in Holbrook. In return for the plea, Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. agreed to sentence O'Donnell to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

O'Donnell had faced a maximum of 5 to 15 years if he'd been convicted of the top count of second-degree manslaughter.

Afterward, Iacono's family members said they were satisfied with the plea deal, although it does nothing to bring Iacono back.

"She was just a young, beautiful girl, just starting out," said a sister, Renee Godberson. "Her hopes and dreams were taken away from her by someone who decided to drink and drive."

Assistant District Attorney Al Croco noted that O'Donnell will get the maximum sentence for the lesser charge of vehicular homicide, ensuring "closure for the family."

Defense attorney John Halverson said the deal was a fair one.

"My heart goes out to the family of Miss Iacono," he said. "My client feels the same way."

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