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Driver sentenced in girl’s death

The hearing is emotional for family, friends.

A juvenile court judge Tuesday sentenced a 14-year-old island girl to up to 36 weeks in detention for the death of Sarah Gillette, 16, killed in a car crash Aug. 23.

Judge Russell W. Hartman said that the teen driver – who had previously pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and driving without a license – was not the only one to make “a string of bad choices on the night” of the crash that killed Gillette and injured seven other teens.

“Indeed,” Hartman said. “I could say that to all the children and parents” involved in the case. “If we deny that, we are deceiving ourselves.”

Testimony in the sentencing hearing in Port Orchard revealed that several of the teens lied to their parents about their whereabouts that night.

Before the accident, the defendant and a 14-year-old friend smoked marijuana at the Hempfest event in Seattle when they were supposed to be shopping, the juvenile prosecutor said.

The car in which the defendant and her friend were driving later that night was stolen from a parent, the testimony revealed.

The hearing included tearful testimony from the parents and relatives of Gillette and from the father of the accused.

Fighting back tears, Gillette’s mother Caroline Brooks told the court that she had lost not just one daughter to the tragedy, but two. She spoke of Sarah’s twin sister Caiti, who Brooks said “can’t get out of bed,” is having trouble in school and is having nightmares.

Chris Gillette, Sarah’s father, said his daughter was bound to do great things before she lost her life.

“She was the smartest person I know,” he said. “She will always be my little girl. Time will not heal this wound. We live with the realization that we can search the world and not find Sarah anywhere.”

Caiti Gillette expressed anger at the teen driver and her attorneys for seeking leniency, saying “she has destroyed our lives. I’m not saying she’s a monster, but she’s not the angel she is being made out to be.”

Defense attorney Song Richard­son sought a reduced sentence for her client, saying she was sincerely remorseful. She praised the girl for “taking responsibility, and taking it alone.”

The father of the defendant thanked Sarah Gillette’s parents for meeting with him and his wife several times since the tragedy.

“Listening to you this morning breaks my heart,” he said. “We can’t imagine and we can’t compare ourselves to you.”

He told the judge that his daughter had done “a horrible thing,” and he did not know what punishment would be appropriate.

“This is uncharted territory for us,” he told the court.

At one point he turned to Caiti Gillette and said of his daughter, “I know you don’t believe me, Caiti, but I hope you know at some point that she is deeply sorry.”

He said he and his daughter are committed to educating other teens and parents about the ramifications of her actions.

The teen defendant herself was the last person to testify.

She apologized to Sarah Gillette’s family and said, “I never want anyone to go through what I have and what the Gillettes have. I would do anything to earn forgiveness from the Gillettes and the community. I would give up my life.”

The teen, who no longer attends Bainbridge High School, must report to the juvenile rehabilitation agency on Jan. 2 for a 15-36 week term. She also must pay restitution and perform 100 hours of community service and a year of probation. She was released on her own recognizance.

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