Dawnette Eaton, 47, the woman who ran over Missoula police officer Deni Poling in an effort to escape arrest on a probation violation in January, was sentenced on Tuesday, October 22, to a total of 38 years in the Montana Women's Prison.

District Judge Karen Townsend heard emotional testimony from Poling, who asked the judge to keep Eaton behind bars for more than just seven and a half years before being eligible for parole.

photo by Peter Christian

"I just don't feel that it's fair for me to pay for the next 20 to 30 years for what she did, and she possibly only has to pay for the next seven and a half or 10 years for her actions," Poling said. "She should have to pay more and longer than anybody else for all the consequences that her actions caused."

Officer Deni Polling

Eaton's daughter Brittney tearfully read a letter to the court, asking the judge to consider the good that her mother had done in the times she was not in the grip of drugs.

photo by Peter Christian

In sentencing Eaton, Judge Townsend recalled the time she first heard about the incident in January.

"I remember first reading about this incident in the newspaper," Townsend said. "I guess I cannot for as long as I've been involved in the system, it's hard for me to think of a situation that is much worse. I have been here long enough to see when officers were killed, and that's almost too much for the law enforcement community to take. But, we have something here that is almost equally reprehensible. I really see no excuse for what happened here."

Townsend took into account, and then dismissed, Eaton's claim that her drug addiction led to her panicking and running over officer Poling in an attempt to escape arrest.

"You made a choice to try and get away and it was like you didn't care at all about the impact of what you had done," Townsend said. "We have to assess responsibility, and so that's what I think I have to do."

District Judge Karen Townsend

Townsend sentenced Eaton to 10 years for failure to remain at the scene of an accident where there was serious injury or death, and another 20 years on the assault with a weapon charge. She also tacked on another eight years for violating probation, the very crime Eaton attempted to flee from that January night in the West Broadway McDonald's parking lot.

Eaton asked forgiveness of officer Poling and her family, as well as the police department and the community for the harm her actions caused.

Dawnette Eaton

photo by Peter Christian

Eaton was allowed to embrace her daughter before being led away by a county sheriff's deputy to begin her term in the Montana Women's Prison.