Teen pleads guilty in crash

In a courtroom filled with grieving teenagers and sorrowful relatives, a 14-year-old Bainbridge Island girl pleaded guilty Wednesday to vehicular homicide and driving without a license, in the crash that killed 16-year-old classmate Sarah Gillette.

The defendant entered the courtroom of Kitsap Superior Court Judge Russell J. Hartman wearing a pony tail, skirt and white cardigan sweater, her eyes cast downward. Her mother sat behind her, crying.

Across the court room, Sarah Gillette’s mother, Caroline Brooks, sobbed quietly into her hands.

She sat with Sarah’s identical twin sister Caiti, her husband Anson Brooks and several other family members. A dozen teen-age girls sat behind the family, some glaring at the defendant and others wiping away tears.

When Judge Hartman asked the 14-year-old defendant to explain why she was pleading guilty, she answered in a soft monotone: “I’m 14-years old, and on Aug. 23, I drove a car without thinking of the safety of the others, and because of that, Sarah Gillette died.”

On that night, the defendant and seven other island teenagers crammed into a Ford SUV that another 14-year-old girl in the group took in the middle of the night, reportedly without her parent’s permission.

The teens, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, took turns at the wheel before the defendant climbed into the driver’s seat, drove the car in excess of 80 mph on Tolo Road, lost control and crashed, according to court records.

Sarah Gillette was killed instantly. Four boys were airlifted with serious injuries to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The defendant and the girl who took the vehicle were treated and released with minor injuries. Charges are being considered against the girl who took the car, said senior deputy prosecutor Todd Dowell.

The defendant, who is not being named by the newspaper because she is a minor, faces a maximum sentence of nine months in juvenile prison, plus probation and community service.

Sentencing is scheduled at 9 a.m. Dec. 7, at the Kitsap County Courthouse in Port Orchard.

During that hearing, the judge will allow statements from the friends and family of Sarah Gillette, about how her death has affected their lives.

Witnesses will also be allowed to testify on behalf of the defendant, who plans to make a statement to the court, her attorneys said.

Song Richardson, the attorney representing the defendant, said her client has been mischaracterized as unfeeling and uncaring about what happened.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “She has taken responsibility and she has been remorseful. She wants the healing to begin.”

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