CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - An Atlanta teen has been sentenced to 36 months probation in a 2017 crash that killed three pedestrians, including an infant.
Zoe Reardon, 18, entered the plea to misdemeanor charges Monday morning, with her attorney saying she did not want to put the victims’ families through a trial.
Reardon could have faced 36 months behind bars. Instead, she will serve the probation and check-in from Texas where she currently attends college.
She’ll also get her license back after a year, pay fines and donate to a foundation centered around combating distracted driving.
Under first-offender status, her record will be cleared when she completes the sentence.
“You’re pretty young,” State court Judge Alan Jordan told Reardon during sentencing. “You’ve got a lifetime ahead of you. I expect this is something you’re going to have a hard time dealing with the rest of your life.”
Cherokee County authorities initially closed the case against Reardon with no charges, but it was reopened in the midst of civil litigation against the City of Woodstock, where the group died. It’s centered around a lack of pedestrian measures in place around an entertainment pavilion where the victims were headed to see a concert.
Reardon has maintained she never saw the group crossing the road that evening, and her defense has highlighted forensics to punctuate this was not a distracted driving case.
“I want to take this opportunity to say how truly sorry I am,” Reardon cried, ahead of her sentencing.
The victims included hurricane evacuees Kaitlin Hunt and her 3-month-old daughter, Riley, along with their family friend, 61-year-old Kathy Deming.
This week would have marked Hunt’s 30th birthday, as loved ones from both families pleaded with Jordan to hand down the toughest sentence possible.
“It’s ridiculous to say they walked out in front of you. That didn’t happen, and you know it didn’t happen,” said Kathy’s widow, Mike Deming, as he looked directly at Reardon during an impact statement.
There were 20 minutes of memorial video montages played in court as photos of the victims chronicled their lives.
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Dozens of impact statements were read, as loved ones pointed out Reardon had never reached out directly to apologize. Instead, they said they heard it in a May interview with Channel 2 Action News.
“And just to be clear, that interview you all did on WSB was nothing more than a slap in the face to this family,” said David Lickman, Kaitlin’s stepfather. “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 everyday that you could reach out. Exactly what stopped you?” Lickman continued.
“I’m sure you can hear the animosity in my voice is absolutely immense, and that is why -- zero accountability for your actions,” said John Deming, one of Kathy’s two sons.
Mike Deming also said the families heard from Reardon’s father through prosecutors last week in reference to the plea.
“The only time there was desire for a conversation was when you ... your best interests were at heart,” said Deming, addressing Zoe Reardon.
After the hearing, Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr asked Reardon’s attorney about that criticism, as well as public pushback over Reardon’s sentence.
“I mean people are hurting. They can say what they want,” Manny Arora said. “The issue here is police told us not to contact them. The plaintiff’s lawyers in the civil suits that were going on told us not to contact them, and the criminal case was sort of just an afterthought.”
“What do you say to people who think this sentence was too light or privileged?” Carr asked.
“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.”
The Hunt family sent the following statement to Channel 2 Action News after the hearing:
“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."
- Kathy Vandiver, Gregg Vandiver and David Lickman, parents and grandparents of Kaitlin Hunt and Riley Hunt.
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