Coventry woman sentenced to 4 years in prison for deadly hit-and-run

South County

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A Coventry woman will spend several years behind bars for a hit-and-run crash that claimed another woman’s life back in 2017.

Shannon Holden was arrested more than a week after 27-year-old Sarah Balmforth was struck and killed on South Road in Exeter.

Holden, now 27 herself, pleaded no contest to a charge of duty to stop in an accident resulting in death, according to the Rhode Island attorney general’s office. She was sentenced to seven years at the ACI with four to serve and the remainder suspended with probation.

The AG’s office said the state was prepared to prove that on the night of July 3, 2017, Holden fled after she was knowingly involved in a collision. When she arrived at a friend’s house, she claimed she hit what she believed to be a deer, according to prosecutors.

Balmforth’s body wasn’t found until the following morning, and police said they also collected debris from a vehicle consistent with the damage from Holden’s Jeep Wrangler.

Holden was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, and upon her release from prison, she’ll lose her license for three years.

Balmforth’s family and friends said she was a caring person who loved animals. Earlier this year, the nonprofit Friends of Exeter Animals told 12 News they were building a barn in her honor.

On Monday, volunteer Shauna Point said the barn is almost complete and they hope to host an event there in October.

“We were hoping that would be a nice way to do a barn dance and to have a local farmers market here, where people can come and support all of our wonderful local farmers and see the barn that’s being raised in Sarah’s memory,” she said.

Point said the barn will eventually house animals brought to the nonprofit.

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