PLATTE CITY, Mo. - Seventeen-year-old Rachel Gannon will spend as much as three and a half years behind bars, a judge ruled today, revoking her probation in the case of a fatal 2011 texting and driving crash.
Gannon had been confined to Platte County jail since the fall, when she was found to have violated her probation by hosting a party at which she became intoxicated, by quitting her job and by moving out of her parents’ home and into that of a 21-year-old boyfriend. She was only to leave the jail to attend school and an after-school tutoring class.
Prosecutors said today that Gannon had regularly skipped out on the tutoring class to hang out at a nearby Dairy Queen, which triggered the judge’s decision.
“I'm hopeful that when she is released from prison she will return and become a productive member of society and someday will be able to tell her grandkids about a terrible mistake that she made as a young girl and help them not make similar mistakes,” Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd told reporters after the sentencing.
Gannon had originally pleaded guilty in the death of 72-year-old Loretta Latimer, whom she struck head-on while driving a borrowed car and texting. Latimer was killed and her 10-year-old grandson in the back seat suffered a broken arm.
At the time, Latimer’s family asked for leniency for the then16-year-old. She was then given a sentence with no jail time and no felony on her record. Now, Gannon will carry a felony record for life, though attorneys on both sides say she is unlikely to serve all three and a half years of her sentence.
Latimer’s eldest son, attending the hearing today, called the day “tragic.”
“We wanted Rachel to succeed,” said John Latimer, “We wanted something good to come out of this. And something good coming out of this would have been... would have been Rachel moving on and being successful and having a successful life and not letting this define her.”
Gannon’s family members, who wept in court as the sentence was read, feel the same. Afterwards, they told reporters they were “devastated” by the outcome.
“After this accident happened, she tortured herself,” Gannon’s mother Becky Tweeddale said. “She wasn't eating, she wasn't sleeping. She didn't feel she deserved to be alive after what happened. She was devastated after Loretta passed. It’s affected our entire family the whole time.”
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