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Drunk driver found guilty of murder


When Martin Heidgen drove into oncoming traffic after a night of heavy drinking, drivers flashed their headlights and honked their horns to warn him, prosecutors said.

When the 25-year-old continued, hitting a wedding limousine and killing a chauffeur and a 7-year-old flower girl, he showed a "depraved indifference to human life" that qualified his actions as murder, jurors ruled Tuesday.

The murder verdict &

rare in cases stemming from fatal crashes caused by intoxicated drives &

followed a gut-wrenching, five-week trial filled with gruesome images and testimony.

Jennifer Flynn, who testified about holding daughter Katie's decapitated head immediately after the wreck, collapsed sobbing into her weeping husband's arms when the verdict was read.

"It was the right verdict," she said later. "I'm happy for that."

Limo driver Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, was the second victim.

Jurors, who deliberated for five days, saw a horrifying video from the limo's surveillance camera that showed Heidgen's pickup truck barreling toward the car moments before the head-on crash. It ended with the metal-on-metal crunch of the two vehicles colliding.

The crash occurred on a Long Island highway in July 2005 as the family was returning home from a wedding.

Prosecutors will ask for the maximum of 25 years to life at the Nov. 20 sentencing for Heidgen, who stood stoically beside his two attorneys through the verdict. Jurors could have convicted him on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

Juror Michael DeRita said deliberations became "pretty fierce," but ultimately jurors agreed unanimously on the murder charge.

"He voluntarily was intoxicated," DeRita said. "He got into the car, he turned the key, he drove, he turned around, he avoided stimuli to make him get out of the way. It wasn't an accident because he brought this on himself and he caused the death of two people."

In addition to the two murder counts, the jury convicted Heidgen of assault and driving while intoxicated.

Defense attorney Stephen LaMagna complained that prosecutors held Heidgen to the "same standard as a cold-blooded murderer." He said he intended to appeal and was confident the murder conviction would be overturned.

Prosecutors estimated that Heidgen had at least 14 drinks before getting behind the wheel.