Driver Who Injured Woman on Manhattan Sidewalk Pleads to Two Felonies

Update: Tiffany Murdaugh was sentenced to two to six years in prison.

A woman who hit a pedestrian on a Lower Manhattan sidewalk and left the scene pled guilty to two felony charges this week.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

On April 13, 2015, Tiffany Murdaugh drove her Dodge Challenger over the curb on Beekman Street near William Street, striking Heather Hensl and nearly hitting a second woman and two children as she sped down the sidewalk.

The crash happened outside Spruce Street School. Parents who have kids at the school told DNAinfo motorists often use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

“I just saw this woman somersaulting in the air and then she landed on the sidewalk,” a witness told DNAinfo. “[Murdaugh] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane. So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

Hensl, then 37, sustained a broken knee and a head laceration.

Murdaugh did not stop. Though police had video evidence, NYPD hesitated to file charges, in part because Murdaugh lived out of state.

A few weeks after the crash, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance charged Murdaugh with two counts of assault, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene. On Wednesday Murdaugh pled guilty to assault and reckless endangerment charges, both class D felonies, according to Vance’s office.

“This defendant careened onto a sidewalk near an elementary school at 8 o’clock in the morning on a school day,” Vance said in a statement. “It is a miracle that no one else was hurt by her recklessness. This driver not only narrowly missed a mother and her two young children, she seriously wounded a woman who had to endure months of physical therapy to rehabilitate her leg. I hope this conviction serves to deter reckless and illegal driving that endangers our City’s residents.”

It is rare for a motorist to be convicted of felony charges for injuring a New York City pedestrian, even in cases where the driver leaves the scene. The Vance press release said investigators relied on video and witness accounts to help make the case.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Murdaugh is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

  • Kevin Love

    “I hope this conviction serves to deter reckless and illegal driving that endangers our City’s residents.”

    Anyone want to take a wager that the sentence imposed will not, in fact, provide for much of a deterrent?

  • Flakker

    What about the elderly woman who, according to the initial report, was also hit in Brooklyn by the same driver the same day? Even if the Brooklyn DA does not bring charges it seems like that could be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing, yet the news reports today don’t mention it at all.

  • Jonathan R

    Just speaking for myself, I would lose my job if I got a felony conviction. That’s plenty deterrent right there.

  • That is another problem entirely I think.

  • The idea that motorists “regularly use the sidewalk” boggles my mind.

  • mattkime

    >>The Vance press release said investigators relied on video and witness accounts to help make the case.

    …because an injured / killed person isn’t enough.

  • Ken

    I think that if the parents who have kids at that school chipped in they could buy themselves something that would put an end to the practice in which “motorists often use the sidewalk to drive around traffic”.

    http://perimetersecurityproducts.com/products/tire-shredder/

  • Tyson White

    Someone lives out of state is a reason not to bring the person to justice? If not for her turning herself in nothing would be done? Unbelievable!

  • neroden

    This is good. Cy Vance doing the bare minimum.

    Next question: how do we get Murdaugh’s license revoked? She’s guilty of reckless driving… but she carefully pled guilty only to the charges which aren’t directly linked to license revocation!

    Is she getting right back behind the wheel, and if so, *how can we stop it*?

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