Earlier, with prospective jurors waiting, Carpenter urged Townsend to accept the plea agreement because a jury could find her guilty of first-degree murder, a verdict that would put her in prison for life with no chance of parole.
Townsend, wiping tears, apologized to the family of her intended target, Latasha Burrows, telling them "I never meant for this to happen. I pray for [you] every day, and I want you to forgive me. I want [you] to know I'm not a bad person."
Townsend admitted driving her gold Nissan Maxima at Burrows as she and her family crossed the street in front of her home in the 2800 block of Germantown Avenue.
Burrows managed to dive out of the way, but Townsend's car struck her sister, Charlese Burrows, then 33; their mother, Donna Burrows, then 47; and Latasha Burrows' daughter, Aayana Latney, 5.
The impact shattered Donna Burrows' leg and broke Aayana's leg and pelvis. Charlese Burrows took the car's direct impact, said Assistant District Attorney Dennis McCloskey, and was left a quadriplegic with multiple broken bones and second- and third-degree burns.
Charlese Burrows lingered, in and out of hospitals and rehab centers until dying of pneumonia on Nov. 19, 2007.
According to McCloskey, Townsend was dating Aaron Latney, then 27, the father of Aayana Latney.
On April 24, 2007, Townsend and Latney drove to Franklin Mills to see the movie Perfect Stranger, a thriller with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis. During the film, Townsend asked to borrow Latney's cellphone and in the lobby answered a call from Latasha Burrows, who said she needed to talk to Latney about a problem with their daughter.
McCloskey provided the following account of what happened next:
Townsend and Burrows got into a heated argument and, after she hung up, Townsend argued with and assaulted Latney before driving off.
About 7:30 p.m., Townsend, accompanied by a female passenger, parked in front of Latasha Burrows' Germantown Avenue home. There, Burrows and Townsend began arguing and swinging at each other through the open window of Burrows' car.
Townsend drove off a short distance, made a U-turn, and sped toward Burrows.
Defense attorney Robert Marc Gamburg asked Carpenter to approve the no-contest plea that he and Townsend's family spent most of the morning persuading Townsend to accept.
Gamburg said Townsend wants to complete her sentence and get home to her own daughter, a Girl Scout and honors student.
Townsend must serve at least 15 years before she is eligible for parole but will get credit for her five years in prison since her arrest.
Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, email@example.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.