Judge Bradford DeMeo sentenced Kaitlyn Dunaway to 120 days in jail Wednesday in a Santa Rosa courtroom — five of which will be spent in custody and 115 on electric home confinement, in addition to three years probation.
Dunaway, 19, 2-year-old Calli Murray on Dec. 1, 2010. The Sonoma State student admitted to texing and driving when she ran over Calli, who would have turned 3 on Christmas, and her mother Ling, 42.
Today's decision came as a surprise for Dunaway's attorney, Chris Andrian.
that Dunaway would likely face three years of probation and 300 hours of community service in leiu of six months in jail, after she pleaded no contest to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. But facts that he "was previously unaware of" changed his "perspective," he said today.
Dunaway initially denied she was texting when she talked to Rohnert Park police, Brooks said. Andrian said there is no question Dunaway was texting before the collision.
Rohnert Park police, however, concluded the accident was Murray's fault, Andrian said. The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office then hired an accident reconstruction expert from Wyoming who concluded Dunaway was at fault because she was texting, Andrian said.
However, Dunaway's lawyer said, she was "willing to accept the ruling" and never wanted to go to trial if it meant "proving a mother killed her daughter," Andrian said.
"My view of the case [is that] there is compelling evidence that would negate her guilt — we have investigated this case extensively," Andrian said. But, DeMeo was "obviously very moved in reading what the family had been through. Clearly he was impacted by it."
Dunaway fought back tears throughout the three-hour court hearing, and looked straight into the eyes of the Murray family as they read letters to her amid a half-full court room.
"If there was anything I could do to take back what's happened, and to take away their pain, I would do it in a heartbeat," Dunaway said before sentencing. "I'm very, very sorry."
In addition to "home confinement," in which Dunaway will be allowed to attend college classes, she:
- Will have her driver's license suspended for one year.
- Must complete 200 hours of additional community service, spent speaking at schools and to the public about distracted driving by Nov. 15, 2013.
- Has to undergo counseling.
- Can't be in the proximity to liquor stores or bars, or consume any alcohol.
- Must submit to unwarranted searches of her person and property at any time.
- Pay restitution to the Murray family in the amount of $1,480.
- Refrain from using a cell phone in any way when driving in the future.
Judge DeMeo said distracted driving, specifically texting, is not just a problem for young people.
"This is a problem that is rampant [by] all generations," he said.
The case’s lead prosecutor, Craig Brooks, said Dunaway was on her way to pick up a friend when she hit the Murrays. Her text read: Almos...
DeMeo "saw all the facts, instead of just the defense's version of the facts," Brooks said. "It wasn't just an accident."
Jeff Murray, Calli's father and Ling's husband, said the sentence wasn't enough. He said he'd like to see the maximum sentence — one year in jail for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
"This was no accident from our understanding — the defendant took our daughter's life when she was breaking the law," he said. "We have to live with that every day, knowing that Calli's not coming back."
Ling Murray said she wasn't strong enough to face Dunaway. She recalled seeing her daughter "cold and lifeless in her coffin" and spending whole days in Calli's room after her death "to be with her."
"I cant stand here today to face the person who killed my daughter and caused myself so much suffering," she wrote in a letter that was read to the court.
Ling, who has undergone nearly a year of what she called "painful, nearly unbearable" surgeries, had her hip, legs and arms shattered, said when she woke up, all she could think about was that Calli was alone.
"I woke up and I said, I want to see my daughter, but the cold hard fact is that she is dead," Ling said.
Though it's been nearly a year since the tragedy, the Murrays said they hope Calli's death will teach others about the .
Al Andres, or "Papa Al," who is Calli's grandfather, said he is working hard to lobby state legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown to impose higher fines on cell phone use while driving, and to get the law amended to reflect a "fair" sentence for this type of accident.
Texting while driving should be a felony offense, he said.
Andres is hoping to create "Calli's Law," and pass laws that make stricter the penalties for accidents like the Murrays' — asserting that texting and driving is even worse than drunk driving, becasue drivers are looking down instead of at the road.
"All of us must put away our cell phones," Andres said.
And while the family said Calli's death could teach others about distracted driving, .
"Ms. Dunaway, you will never know the pain you have caused our family," Andres said.
Editor's note: Dunaway will begin to serve the five days of her term in custody
starting Dec. 27 and 115 days under electronic home confinement will begin
Jan. 27. Bay City News contributed to this report.