KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A woman accused of hitting four teens while driving a car now faces an upgraded charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Tamika Pledger, a candidate for Unified Government commissioner, appeared in Wyandotte County court Tuesday to face the amended criminal complaint in the case.
Pledger is accused of running down four teenagers while driving her car. The district attorney charged the 38-year-old woman with involuntary manslaughter after one of teens, 16-year-old Tierra Smith, died as a result of her injuries.
Pledger did not speak with reporters as she entered the Wyandotte County courthouse Tuesday morning. In addition to the upgraded charge, prosecutors asked for and received an order barring Pledger from having any contact with the victims' families or witnesses in the case.
Prosecutors claim Pledger has been attempting to contact families at the intensive care unit of the University of Kansas Hospital. In a recorded jailhouse phone call played in court, Pledger is heard urging a supporter to coerce victims into changing their stories about the crash.
Morris Letcher, an uncle of Tierra Smith, called the latest criminal proceedings against Pledger appropriate in light of his niece's death.
"It's the law," Letcher said. "It's the reason we have laws. Unfortunately somebody has to pay sometimes for their mistake. A loss of life can never be taken lightly."
Pledger also faces three counts of reckless aggravated battery connected to the crash January 30 that injured three other teens. In the jailhouse phone call played in court, Pledger also is heard saying that kids at the accident scene need to be "locked up for their part." In the recording Pledger said: "This happened because of them not me."
Pledger claims she was on her way to stop a fight involving her cousin. Pledger also told the judge that the victims' families are not upset with her and did not have a problem with her coming to the hospital.
Pledger has declined interview opportunities with FOX 4 due to legal issues, but she recently took to Facebook to express her opinion of the accident. In the Facebook post, Pledger blamed the accident on the Devil and tried to put positive spin on what had happened.
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Pledger is not currently in custody, but if Pledger is convicted, she could face 31 to 136 months in prison depending on her criminal history.