Crying in court saying she was sorry, Zoe Reardon, 19, was given no jail time for killing three people crossing the street in Cherokee County, Georgia in 2017.
Killed were Kaitlin Hunt, 28, her 3-month-old daughter, Riley, and 61-year-old Kathy Deming, a family friend.
Hunt, who was originally from Marietta, Georgia, was at the time stationed with the Coast Guard in Florida. She’d traveled with her infant to Atlanta to escape Hurricane Irma.
“I want to take this opportunity to say how truly sorry I am,” Reardon said in court, according to local media. She claimed she took a plea deal to avoid a trial. She will serve probation, pay a fine and do community service. She gets her license back and once her probation is done, the conviction will be taken off her record. A student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she is being allowed to report to probation in Texas.
The victims’ families had begged the judge for the harshest possible sentence for the teenager who was initially charged with distracted driving, use of electronic communication device under the age of 18, two counts of vehicular homicide and three counts of second-degree vehicular homicide.
Instead, she was sentenced to less than three years of probation.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Reardon Admitted Killing Riley, Her Infant & Deming & Said She Wasn’t Texting Nor Speeding
The initial charges included distracted driving because it was alleged the girl, then 17, was texting. It was revealed her last text was two minutes before she ran down Riley, her baby, and friend Deming. Her lawyer argued the accident was just that, an accident.
WSB reported that Reardon’s defense attorney Manny Arora said her last text to her father about dinner was made two minutes before she ran down the victims.
“She sent a text message two minutes and 40 seconds prior to the accident when she was stopped. There’s no other issue on the phone … nothing else that was touched on that phone. It’s just a red herring to try and poison the jury, in my opinion,” he told the news station.
In an interview with local media Reardon said she’d texted her father a few minutes before, but claimed she was stopped at a light. She disputed claims that she was distracted as she put her phone away in her bag; she told investigators it was on the passenger seat but also said it was on the car floor.
2. Hunt & Deming & Family Were Walking to a Benefit Concert & Were Hit at Around 8 p.m., Twilight in September. Reardon Claimed She Was Focused on the Road & Could Not Have Prevented the Accident
Hunt holding baby Riley, Deming and other family members were walking to a concert in Woodstock, Georgia when Reardon hit the mother, baby, and friend at around 8:15 p.m.
Reardon said she didn’t see them because they were wearing “dark clothing” and there were no streetlights and no cross walk.
In an interview with local media eight months after the three were killed, Reardon said she was paying attention to the roadway when she hit the family but did not see them.
An investigation by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office found she was not texting and driving at the time. It was noted in a police investigation report that there were “no streetlights or crosswalks, and Reardon was driving between 28 and 36 miles per hour in the 35 mph zone. The report also noted the victims were wearing dark clothing,” WSB reported.
3. Following the Accident, Reardon Said She Was an A-Student & College-Bound & Was Sorry
In the interview, Reardon said she and her family were suffering and the victims’ “families’ hurt must be four times what we’re going through.”
“I pray for the hearts, and I pray for their healing,” she said. Her mother said she wanted to reach out to the families to tell them how sad she was and her father said he could not “imagine their pain.”
But the Riley and Deming families found her statements made during the interview disingenuous and incorrect on the facts.
4. The Families Found Her Statements Self-Serving & Said She Never Contacted Them
WSB reported that during her sentencing, a memorial video was played and a number of family impact statements were made. In them, it was repeated that Reardon never contacted them.
Deming’s husband Mike Deming said that Reardon’s claim the victims “walked out in front” of her was untrue: “That didn’t happen, and you know it didn’t happen.”
Kaitlyn Riley’s step-father David Lickman said the interview Reardon did “was nothing more than a slap in the face to this family. I’m not sure exactly what you were trying to convey but it came across as nothing more than a self-serving theatrical performance. How dare you claim on TV that you feel so sorry for this family and wish every day that you could reach out. Exactly what stopped you?”
The Hunt family forwarded a statement to local media, which read in part that what they needed was for Reardon to be held to account.
“Our desire has always been for the woman who killed our daughter, Kaitlin Hunt; granddaughter, Riley Hunt; and dear friend Kathy Deming to be held accountable for her actions. What happened is a tragedy on multiple levels, and there is no outcome that will make our family whole again. Court actions cannot heal us — we must continue to heal ourselves.”
5. Many People Commenting on the Case & the Inexplicably Light Sentence Say Reardon’s ‘Privilege’ Allowed Her to Walk Away without Jail Time. The Hunt Family Said She Was Not Held Accounatbale
A local investigative reporter asked her lawyer about the light sentence and the so-called privilege. He pushed back: “They can say what they want, but when they just watch two-minute snippets of the news to figure out what the facts are, that’s just not right,” Arora said. “The cellphone had nothing to do with it. Distracted driving had nothing to do with it. In the end, she didn’t want to put everyone through it, and she accepted the plea.”