A 17-year-old Monroe student who was driving the car in a prom night crash that killed a classmate admitted guilt today in Butler County Juvenile Court.
The court date was scheduled to be a bench trial before Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps, but instead the teen entered a plea of true to aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of aggravated vehicular assault. The true plea is the equivalent of guilty in adult court.
The teen lost control of the 2013 Tesla she was driving April 28 along Millikin Road and struck a telephone pole, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
Kaylie Jackson, 17, was a back-seat passenger at the time of the accident, sheriff’s deputies said. She died a few days after the crash. The teen driver and two other passengers — Tanner Allford, 17, and Mitchell Foster Jr., 18 — were also injured.
The teen, now a senior, sobbed as she offered an apology to the families of those injured, killed and her own parents.
“Kaylie was my best friend … I miss Kaylie, Mitchell and Tanner,” she said through tears. “There’s not a day I don’t think about them.”
The teen’s mother also cried and offered an apology. The mother said her daughter is a “warm-hearted girl and anyone who would speak to her in two minutes would know that.”
She said her daughter is hurting from the crash.
“These were her friends. There was no intent. They were all so excited to going to prom and to have this happen it’s terrible,” the mother said, adding she thinks about Jackson multiple times a day.
The girl’s father also spoke out in apology
“To the parents, I want to apologize. These kids were friends. I loved these kids like they were my own,” he said. “It’s hard, it is very hard, it is devastating. If I could change their position, I would be there.”
Defense attorney Chris Pagan said the teen suffers from PTSD and just opening the hearing up to the press exacerbated the girl’s condition.
Pagan also said trial preparation evidence indicates the teen was inexperienced in driving the electric Tesla and that road condition also contributed to the crash.
But, Butler County Sheriff’s Office investigators say speed was the contributing factor to the crash.
Allford told the judge his everyday life style has changed since the accident.
“I can’t sleep, I have anxiety, I have depression,” he said.
He added he does not understand why the teen driver was speeding.
“The speed was her fault,” Allford said.
Amanda Garcia, Jackson’s mother, quietly addressed the judge, noting Monday was the first time she had heard an apology from the teen. She asked the judge to make the right decision.
Lipps ordered the teen, who has been on house arrest for months, to be taken to the Butler County Juvenile Detention until sentencing on Dec. 19.
The judge ordered the teen be evaluated for sentencing. The probation department has recommended the teen be sentenced to a long-term treatment facility.
The teen could also be sentenced to the Juvenile Detention Center in Columbus until her 21st birthday, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.
In May, when the teen was placed on house arrest, she was also ordered not to have any contact with the victims and their families and she surrendered her driver’s license, according to Rob Clevenger, court administrator.
A civil wrongful death lawsuit, seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000, was filed by Jackson’s parents on June 1, just about one month after the fatal crash. There is a status hearing coming up in Butler County Common Pleas Court this month, according to court records.