KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rachel Gannon says that not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about the death of 72-year-old Loretta Larimer, who was killed last September when the Platte County teenager lost control of her vehicle while texting and struck Larimer’s oncoming vehicle head-on.
Larimer’s family says that they hope that Gannon’s young life wasn’t ruined after one terrible mistake, and that she and others will learn from the accident to take their driving privileges more seriously.
Gannon, 16, was given five years probation and sentenced to 48 hours of “shock time” in the Platte County jail for texting while driving. She also has to do community service work and must surrender her license.
Gannon had earlier pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, third-degree assault, and operating a motor vehicle while texting in connection to the September 26, 2011, crash along N.W. Skyview Road.
A 10-year-old girl riding in the back of Larimer’s car was also injured in the wreck.
In court on Thursday, Gannon apologized to the family of Loretta Larimer.
“She said that she thinks about my mother every day,” said Paula Larimer, the victim’s daughter. “So I’m sure that’s true. I’m sure that’s a heavy weight for her. Just as it is for us.”
“I didn’t want to see this young girl go to prison or anything like that,” said Larimer’s son, John Larimer. “I think it would have been very negative, very detrimental.”
Gannon, who was certified to stand trial as an adult, could have been sentenced to four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter and third-degree assault. Before sentencing on Thursday, Rachel Gannon pleaded guilty to all three charges.
The Platte County judge did not sentence Gannon to the more serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and third-degree assault. Instead, the judge sentenced her on the lesser charge of texting while driving.
“I think we all could agree this is a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Gannon’s attorney, Brian Gaddy. “I think we all could be more attentive on our driving. I think there is a message here for the community at large, and that’s to be more careful when you’re driving. So I think hopefully maybe some good could come out of a tragic case.”
If Gannon completes her probation without any additional problems, the charges will be removed from her criminal record. In addition to probation and “shock time,” Gannon will be under house arrest for 72 days and will lose her license until after she graduates from high school. She will also be required to serve 300 hours of community service this summer.
Under Missouri law, texting while driving is only a crime for drivers under age 21.