Accused DWI Killer Gets Probation for Death of Six-Year-Old Zhaneya Butcher

A killer charged with the DWI manslaughter death of a six-year-old child walked out of court Tuesday without spending a day in jail.

Zhaneya Butcher. Photo via Daily News

Prosecutors say Kent Lowrie, 53, was legally drunk when he hit and killed Zhaneya Butcher last summer as the little girl ran toward an ice cream truck on 104th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens. Lowrie pled guilty to manslaughter as part of a deal that resulted in five years’ probation, a $1,000 fine, a six-month license revocation and the mandated use of an ignition interlock device for one year, according to court records. The Daily News reports:

Instead of going to a grand jury, prosecutors opted to offer Lowrie a plea deal. They feared that when a margin of error for the blood-alcohol test was factored in, Lowrie would not have been considered intoxicated and would have faced lesser charges.

There was also no evidence that Lowrie was speeding.

Given that Lowrie faced up to seven years in prison, Zhaneya’s relatives were understandably shocked by the outcome of this case. Implicit in the decision to negotiate such a favorable deal for Lowrie is the fact that, under ordinary circumstances, the driver who strikes a child with deadly force on a neighborhood street is considered blameless by default.

The state legislature has given police and prosecutors new tools to offer a modicum of protection to vulnerable street users like Zhaneya Butcher and, ideally, to deter drivers from acts of deadly recklessness. But as long as those tools go unused, motorists will continue to maim and kill with relative impunity, and victims of traffic violence will be deemed culpable for their own deaths and injuries.

A woman who accompanied Lowrie on Tuesday was quoted as saying, “People should keep their kids in the house and not running between parked cars.” As repugnant a statement as that is, it’s more or less what the criminal justice system is saying, too.

  • Anonymous

    Six months license revocation for killing someone while driving drunk? I would think that *at least* ten years would be fair (regardless of the prison sentence or lack thereof).

  • Matt Killmoto

    “People should keep their cars in a garage not careening down the road piloted by drunks”

  • dporpentine

    I think we could go to a system where every driver gets a certain number of free kills or maimings and people would still complain that bikers and pedestrians are the real problem. The City Council would then swoop in to save the drivers–giving them three kills, plus an extra two on an as-needed basis.

  • carma

    From what i know about this story.  It is not as simple as drunk driver hits child, child dies.  The fact is that the child darted across mid street.  A sober driver may have killed this child.  Yes, the driver was drunk, but it wasnt a “strong” case against the driver.  Considering the driver was barely over the legal blood alcohol limit, it would have been an iffy case to convict the driver.

    A plea deal in this case works fairly in which the driver DOES get some form of punishment rather than the possibility of none if the case went to trial.

    dont get me wrong, i would rather see the driver do some real time, but would you rather read in the papers that the driver got away scott free?

  • carma

    just want to add, that a more cautious driver may have prevented this by acknowledging there is a ice cream truck and that kids DO dart out.

    i say bring back those Mr. Softee jingles on the trucks.  I never seemed to mind them in the summer before bloomie got rid of them.

  • @d8d46f16f380afef59ca318522397233:disqus The problem is that despite the recent increase in disapproval of drunk-driving, it’s still very widely practiced.  The only ways I can see to really stop people from doing it are either sufficiently strong societal pressure, or sufficiently punitive laws.

    But it seems clear that the societal/political will to do either of these things is lacking—presumably because, despite the lip service against drunk driving, many, many, people are still doing it…

  • Joe R.

    The best way to send a societal message that drunk driving is unacceptable is to take away a person’s license forever, on the first offense. And to ensure that this has teeth, confiscate and auction off the cars of anyone caught driving without a license. Of course, this will never be done because the state makes more money fining bad drivers than just taking them off the roads for good.

    Being sober may well have not prevented this tragedy, but that doesn’t mean we should go soft on drunken driving. The statistics have long been in on how dangerous drunken driving is.

  • Unfortunately no one can bring  the little girl back so in my opinion this driver should spend the rest of his life in jail…..why?

    Because he was driving under the influence….this is the biggest mistake a driver can do… If he wouldn’t have been drunk my opinion would have been different, because even if a driver kills someone because that someone jumped in front of his car or the driver didn’t focus properly the punishment shouldn’t be that rough….but when I heard about drunk or drugged drivers I’m very nervous…..

  • carma

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus 
    I definitely think the driver in this case deserved a more harsh punishment.  but given the circumstances of the legal limit being .08 and the driver barely at that stage of being drunk.  it would have been questionable if the driver would have been found guilty if the case went to court with other charges.

    But lets consider if the driver did not take a plea of 5 years probation, $1000 fine, and a 6 month suspension and a mandatory lock.

    Under the current NYS law, the harshest penalty would have been the same except the addition of Jail time of 1 year.

    So in this case, the plea deal gave a similar punishment except jail time.  but in exchange for 5 years probation.

    It was questionable whether or not the girl would have survived with a sober driver as she darted across mid street.

    As we have all seen in other cases of drunk driving, some get away scott free.  so id rather see “SOME” form of punishment given than none at all in this particular case.

  • Karma

    He should be held forever just like he took the girls life away forever

    I miss her soo much

  • khadasia

    true i do to lol sad

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG