A Kansas City teenager who pleaded guilty to causing a fatal accident while texting has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after repeated probation violations.
Rachel Gannon pleaded guilty in May 2012 to involuntary manslaughter, assault, and violating the Missouri law that prohibits motorists 21 or younger from texting while driving.
The accident in September, 2011 killed 72-year-old Loretta Larimer of Camden Point. The crash also injured Larimer’s ten-year-old granddaughter.
Gannon was traveling north on NW Skyview Road on September 26, 2011 at approximately 3:00 p.m. when she struck Larimer’s vehicle near Interstate 435.
Gannon admitted she had been texting on her cell phone before she ran off the side of the road. When Gannon returned her vehicle to the road, she crossed the median and hit Larimer’s vehicle head-on.
Last year Platte County Circuit Judge Abe Shafer sentenced Gannon to two days shock time in jail, and placed her on five years probation that included a number of specific requirements.
Officials now say she repeatedly violated the terms of her probation.
Last September, largely at the request of the victims in the case, Judge Shafer gave her another chance. Shafer sentenced Gannon to one year in the Platte County Jail but allowed her to attend school on work release, provided she also attend tutoring sessions and report back to jail soon thereafter. Prosecutors say she skipped a number of those tutoring sessions and was seen hanging out at a Dairy Queen after school.
On Wednesday, the judge ordered her to serve a three and a half years in the Department of Corrections. That sentence will begin once she completes the one year sentence imposed last September.
In a news release, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This case involves two tragedies. The first tragedy was that Loretta Larimer, a vibrant 72-year-old grandmother, was killed by Rachel Gannon.
“But the second tragedy is that, after receiving tremendous mercy at the request of Ms. Larimer’s family, Ms. Gannon repeatedly violated the terms of her probation and will now serve a prison term that the Larimer family never wanted her to have.”
The victims in the case have been unusually supportive of the defendant, and very vocal about the dangers of sending and receiving text messages while driving. But they have now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Gannon.
In an interview, Zahnd said there’s nothing cynical about that. “One of the things that they told me they were taught by their grandmother is to forgive people when they make a mistake, and they were willing to do that, and frankly still have done that,” Zahnd said.
“But they also always recognized that actions always have to have consequences. Originally we tried to make those consequences not involve prison time. Sadly, today, the court believed that it was left with no other choice other than to commit Rachel Gannon to three and a half years of prison.”