SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A remorseful and tearful apology was given to the family of a beloved nurse who was run over on her scooter and died last July.
The suspect, Cortney Barrett, read a statement at her sentencing hearing Friday. She pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and leaving the scene of an accident back in April.
It was an emotional day for both sides. Before the hearing even started, Barrett’s family and friends gathered outside the courtroom and said a prayer.
“I would like for the family of Elise Denton to know that I’m deeply sorry for her death,” a tearful Barrett said as she read a statement on the witness stand. “Every day I think about her family and the struggles you all must go through.”
It was quite emotional for nearly everyone, including Barrett, as she pleaded with court to give her probation and diversion rather than prison time.
“It breaks my heart knowing you all have to experience the loss of a loved one,” she said. “I continuously pray for your healing for your family in the pain I have caused.”
The family of Denton and supporters packed the gallery, many in lime green T-shirts with her photo and sunflowers on the back, which they say radiate beauty and light.
“The front of the shirt says, ‘Remembering Elise,’ and the back is her favorite quote from Peter Pan, ‘Second star on the right and straight on to morning,” Denton’s friend Brooke Butler said.
Many openly wept as details of what happened that night last July that ended her life.
State prosecutors told the judge if Barrett is given sentenced to prison it will send a clear message.
“That when you are involved in an accident you will not be rewarded or encouraged to flee the scene and you will not be encouraged to fail to aid someone you injured or killed or even call for help, and you should not destroy evidence related to the crime you’ve committed,” Rutherford County Assistand District Attorney J. Paul Newman told the court.
“This is a very tragic case,” Barrett’s attorney Heather Parker told the court. “This is an accident that became a crime when Ms. Barrett left the scene.”
Two character witnesses testified on behalf of Barrett, who is the mother of two young boys.
“Complete isolation, increased anxiety, depression, pure remorse for the situation that has happened,” Barrett’s friend Teshena Woods said.
Rutherford County Circuit Court Judge David Bragg ended up sentencing Barrett to four years in prison with one year to serve behind bars, minus the eight days she has already served.
She will then be placed on three years’ probation when she is released. Denton’s father thought she should have gotten more and calls the sentence ‘sad.’
Butler spoke on behalf of the family.
“I’m glad she’s actually serving some type of jail time,” Butler said. “I mean, nothing can bring Elise back, but at least we are starting a little bit of justice for her.”
Barrett’s attorney said after she speaks with her client she will decide whether or not to appeal the sentence.
She will have to surrender to the custody of the Tennessee Department of Corrections in 30 days.