A Monroe High School senior sat nervously at a table flanked by her defense attorneys and frequently grabbed for a tissue during her sentencing Wednesday morning in Butler County Juvenile Court.
She pleaded “true” earlier this month to aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of aggravated vehicular assault for her role in the Monroe prom night crash that killed a close friend this spring. She has been in the Butler County Juvenile Detention Center since.
After 14 people addressed the court, visiting Judge Thomas Lipps announced he was sentencing the teen to the Miami Valley Rehabilitation Center in Xenia. She may spend six months there and continue receiving mental health treatments, the judge said.
She was driving when Kaylie Jackson, 17, a senior at Monroe, was killed after she was ejected from a car that crashed on Millikin Road and struck a telephone pole, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. The crash occurred on April 28 as the driver and three of her classmates were going to dinner in Mason before the Monroe prom.
In the weeks in the detention center, the driver said she has lost her privacy and there are lonely nights when she cries out for her mother.
“You lose hope so fast you wonder if it was ever there,” she read from a statement, her hands shaking.
One of the defense attorneys, Melynda Cook, said she wanted her client to receive house arrest. She said her client was “not absent” in accepting responsibility for the accident that killed a classmate and injured two more.
“I can’t change time,” Cook said.
In a packed Butler County Juvenile Court, members of Jackson’s family spoke about the events of April 28 and how her death days later changed their lives forever. Jackson, 17, a senior at Monroe High School, was expected to attend Ohio State University in hopes of one day being a surgeon, they said.
“I will never be forgiven for what happened,” the teen told those in the courtroom. “I will always be hated by families and everyone involved.”
Mitchell Foster Jr., 18, who was in the car at the time of the accident, said during his freshman year at Ohio State University, he learned there is “no point” to hold hate toward the driver. But several of Jackson’s family, including her mother, grandmothers and aunts, said they blamed the driver for causing the fatal accident.
They were told she was driving her father’s 2013 Tesla 112 mph at the time of the accident and she refused to slow down when asked by the passengers.
“There are no words to describe the horror I feel,” said Jackson’s mother, Amanda Garcia. “I’m living a nightmare.”
As a mother, her No. 1 job was to protect her daughter, she said.
“I failed,” she said.
Later, Garcia told the driver “I will forgive you some day.”
Before Lipps sentenced the driver, he mentioned all the letters he had read, those in support and against the driver. Through those written words and those spoken Wednesday, the judge said he realized there was “a lot of pain in a lot of people.”
Then he turned his attention to the driver. She was holding a damp tissue.
He called her actions “reckless” and a “bad decision” and he wants her to receive the needed treatment at the rehabilitation center.
Lipps hopes the fatal accident doesn’t “define her life but it probably will.”
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