ELIZABETHTOWN — Trevor Sisto was sentenced in Essex County Court on Thursday to spend 35 years in state prison.
Judge Richard B. Meyer handed down the prearranged sentence two months after the Fort Covington man pleaded guilty to crimes related to his high-speed, reckless road rampage through Lake Placid and Ray Brook on July 24, 2014.
Sisto, 21, drove a Ford F-150 truck head-on into a Honda Fit, killing James and Kim Barney and seriously injuring their 11-year-old daughter, Emily Colby.
The family was en route to Lake Placid that afternoon as Sisto barreled west on Route 86, reaching speeds clocked by State Police as fast as 99 mph near the point of impact.
Sisto had crossed into the oncoming lane, looking to pass cars ahead of him, with police in pursuit.
The rampage had started about 11 minutes earlier on busy Main Street in Lake Placid.
In court Thursday, all three of the Barneys' daughters sat with District Attorney Kristy Sprague and told Sisto, who was sitting near the judge, what they thought.
The DA read Emily's statement for her, looking over the handwritten page at Sisto as she spoke.
“'Because of your careless actions, I had to move out of my house I had my whole life,'” Emily had written.
The child, now 12, described how she had to move and go to a new school as her life was rearranged after the death of her mother and stepfather.
“Now, I feel as if I have no one,” Emily’s statement said.
Katie Barney, the second youngest sister, also shared her written thoughts via the DA.
“'When I found out what happened, my heart shattered into a million pieces,'” Katie told Sisto.
“'I hate you. My family will never be whole or the same again.'”
'WORSHIPPED HER FAMILY'
The Barneys' oldest daughter, Kayla Bedore, who is in college, read her thoughts through tears.
“My parents were my best friends,” she told Sisto.
“My mom was a great person, probably the only person who gave people a second chance,” she said, describing at length how important Jim Barney was as her sole father figure.
“James, my dad, was the only person to guide me growing up.”
The children’s combined sense of loss left the courtroom nearly silent but for sobs coming from Sisto’s family in the gallery.
Stephanie Prashaw, who had been a close friend of Mrs. Barney's, said she was speaking for those who “cannot feel Kim’s strength today.”
She described her as a loving mother who “worshipped her family” and was kind and generous.
“Mr. Sisto, I wish I could have given you my last day with Kim,” she said. “She would have been the first person to stand and forgive you."
Listening, with hands cuffed to chains around his waist, Sisto’s head drooped lower toward the table.
A BROTHER'S WORDS
Terry Covey, Mr. Barney’s brother, told Sisto that, “after you murdered my brother and sister, my mother was suffering. I saw the light go out of her eyes and die.”
His brother, he said, was her baby.
“I don’t look at your actions as being careless,” he said, looking over at the convicted man. “I look at your actions as being self-centered.”
Covey recounted a string of prior convictions Sisto had already amounted on his criminal record, which include rape and burglary, before committing “a vicious murder.”
“All of this by the age of 20,” Covey said.
Sprague followed the family’s victim-impact statements by showing the court and Sisto how many chances he'd had that day to stop, either after the first collision in Saranac Lake or at McDonalds when he dropped off three young female passengers or when he had taken a turn down a dead-end street.
But, Sprague said, Sisto didn’t stop.
Police had recorded his speed at 99 mph about 1.5 seconds before he hit the Barneys' Honda, the DA said. “The ABS (anti-lock braking system) didn’t even engage."
The DA painted a striking picture of a self-serving criminal, telling how — even two weeks ago in Essex County Jail — Sisto had to be restrained and sprayed with pepper spray to be placed back in his cell.
“All Emily Colby wants,” Sprague said, “is a sincere, ‘I’m sorry.'”
This for a little girl, Sprague said, who (in her victim-impact statement) sometimes “'can’t find a reason to live.'
Trevor Sisto did apologize, speaking almost in a whisper.
“The direction my life was headed was destructive. Words cannot fully express how deeply sorry I am," he said.
His attorney, Public Defender Molly Hann, said Sisto “was in the midst of a manic, bipolar episode” when he raced along the roadways.
“It is my belief,” the defense attorney added, “that Trevor is not beyond hope. I think he’s beginning to get the help from the mental-health system that he needs.”
Before delivering the pre-set sentence, Meyer took Sisto to task for both his prior criminal record and for his apparent lack of remorse during police interviews and in statements written for the court.
“On the day in question … that horrible, tragic, senseless day … you were focused on how upset your mother would be that you took her truck.
“That’s pathetic,” Meyer said. “It really is.”
The maximum sentence allowed (in this case) is not enough,” the judge said.
“I’m not sure that you can be rehabilitated. I’m not sure."
The plea agreement included three counts of first-degree assault for the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Barney and injuries to Emily, all felonies, and one count of felony first-degree attempted assault for backing into a Lake Placid police officer.
Sisto also admitted guilt to two counts of reckless driving, a misdemeanor; and one count of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, for driving at a high rate of speed along the sidewalks and on Main Street in Lake Placid; plus two counts of leaving the scene of a property damage accident, a violation.
The two top charges each carry a 25-year determinate sentence, and those will be served concurrently, as arranged in the plea agreement.
Another 10-year sentence is added to prison time for the first-degree attempted assault related to Sisto deliberately tipping the police vehicle over, injuring Lake Placid Traffic Officer Joshua Ashline.
Sisto has to pay $5,000 fines for each top charge, as well as $4,117.92 in fees and restitution, Meyer said.
“What you’ve done is so horrific, it’s hard for me to wish you luck,” he said as the court officers took Sisto through the courtroom door.
'TO SPARE CHILD'
Sprague had settled with the defense and the defendant in the plea agreement late last year.
The decision, she said, was discussed with Barney and Colby families.
Appearing stunned and tired, the children and the Barneys' other family members were escorted quickly downstairs, ahead of family who were in court to support Sisto.
“Emotionally, there’s so much change,” Sprague said of the Barneys' children. “With the disruption that it’s caused, it’s been devastating.”
Sisto had entered his guilty plea on Jan. 2 and will serve time for a fraction of the 60 charges an Essex County grand jury had handed up on Dec. 26.
The top charge in the grand-jury indictment was depraved indifference second-degree murder, a crime that carries a life sentence.
State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain was in court to see the sentencing.
"I want to thank DA Sprague and her staff for all their work and efforts in this difficult case," he said afterward.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org