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Ronkonkoma woman pleads guilty to fatal Coram DWI

Lauren Dean was charged with DWI, Leaving the

Lauren Dean was charged with DWI, Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Driving with a Suspended License after her vehicle struck and killed a man in a motorized wheelchair. (December 7, 2008) Credit: SCPD

A Ronkonkoma woman who prosecutors said was intoxicated at more than three times the legal limit when she struck and killed a man in a motorized wheelchair in Coram pleaded guilty Thursday to vehicular manslaughter.

Lauren Dean, 25, is expected to be sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison on Feb. 24 by Judge Martin Efman in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead in the December 2008, death of Ranford Beckford, 51, of Coram.

Dean agreed to plead guilty on the day that jury selection was to begin. She also pleaded guilty to aggravated driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.

"She was obviously very concerned about going to trial. She wanted to put this behind her," Dean's attorney, Stephen Politi of Central Islip, said in an interview. "She's saddened by the fact her action led to the death of someone."

Prosecutors said Dean was driving a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier on Route 25 in Coram just after 6 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2008, when she struck Beckford, who neighbors said was a Vietnam veteran. Beckford, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was riding his motorized wheelchair on the road's shoulder about a mile from his home.

Police officers saw Dean a short time later driving on County Road 83 in Mount Sinai. They reported that both of the car's air bags were deployed and its windshield was shattered.

Dean's blood-alcohol level was 0.242 percent, prosecutors said. The legal limit is .08 percent.

Dean's lawyer said his client thought she had hit only a curb. He said snow and low visibility contributed to the accident.

Dean's parents and boyfriend were in court Thursday to support her, Politi said.

"It's a tough day for her," he said. "She's devastated by it."

Beckford's neighbors described him in interviews in 2008 as a Vietnam veteran who lived alone in a rented room off Mill Road in Coram. He loved animals and decorated his wheelchair with American flags, they said.

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