A driver who fatally struck a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate who was out riding her bike was convicted Thursday of failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving death and other counts.
Christy Littleford, 43, of Upper Marlboro faces up to 10 years in prison for the September 2010 crash that killed Natasha Pettigrew, 30, a third-year law student at the University of Miami who had taken a break from school to run for office. After deliberating for about 90 minutes, jurors in Prince George’s County Circuit Court convicted Littleford of the four most serious charges. They found her not guilty of a minor traffic charge for failing to control her speed at the time of the crash.
Kenniss Henry, Pettigrew’s mother, closed her eyes and shook as the jury foreman said “guilty” to each charge.
“I needed to hear it. I needed to hear ‘guilty,’ ” she said afterward. “On the other side, nobody comes out a winner here. It’s just a tragedy all the way around.”
According to prosecutors, Littleford struck Pettigrew about 5:30 a.m. as Pettigrew was biking on Route 202. Pettigrew was training for a triathlon and rose early each day to run, bike or swim, her mother said.
The two-day trial hinged on one question: Did Littleford know — or should she have known — that she hit Pettigrew?
Prosecutors argued that what happened was obvious: Littleford had hit a woman, whose body was thrown onto the hood of her sport-utility vehicle. Witnesses testified that Pettigrew was equipped with some reflective gear and a flashing light, and as Littleford drove away, her SUV sent sparks into the air. Prosecutors said the vehicle was dragging Pettigrew’s bike.
“How can a person that’s over 200 pounds strike a vehicle and the driver not know, ‘I hit a person’?” Prince George’s Assistant State’s Attorney Kirstin Statesman asked jurors. “She did know that she hit someone, and she kept going.”
Joseph Vallario, Littleford’s lawyer, said the crash occurred in the dark and Littleford assumed she had hit a deer. Vallario said that it was not until Littleford arrived home and told her husband what happened that they found the bike under the SUV, and immediately made efforts to contact authorities — first returning to the scene of the accident then heading to the hospital and a police station.
“Did they call 911? No. They went there,” Vallario said. “How much more would you want a person to do?”
Littleford testified that she was coming back from a friend’s home that morning when something seemed to strike her vehicle, so she pulled over and looked out her window.
When she did not see anything, she resumed driving, Littleford testified. She said she stopped once more because her SUV was stalling, but she never got out of the vehicle or called 911. She said she knew that she had been in a crash, but she did not know with what. “I didn’t see anything,” she said.
Littleford showed no reaction as the verdict was read. She and family members declined to comment.