A Georgia teen who hit and killed three family members crossing the road at night in 2017 will head to trial, a judge ruled on Tuesday. But her lawyer says the only reason authorities are charging her is because a surviving family member of the victims decided to sue the city.
AJC reports that 18-year-old Zoe Reardon is facing nine charges after she hit a family walking across a dark street with no streetlight or pedestrian crosswalk on September 7, 2017. The family, identified as Kathy Deming, Kaitlin Hunt, and infant, Riley Hunt, was walking from a concert when they crossed Arnold Mill Road in downtown Woodstock. Zoe, smashed into the family, accidentally killing them all.
Investigators determined Reardon was not speeding and hadn’t been under the influence any drugs or alcohol when the incident occurred. Phone records indicate she sent a text message to her father that night, but her lawyer said it was sent while Reardon was at a red light. Reardon was on her way home from horse riding when she said sent a quick text message to her father, discussing dinner.
Investigators researched Reardon’s last text message and determined she sent it at 8:12 p.m. The the crash occurred three minutes later at 8:15 p.m. Reardon told authorities she put her phone on her backpack in the passenger seat before driving and had both hands on the wheel and her eyes on the road when the accident happened.
Thread: Hearing for 18 yo Zoe Reardon. At 17-hit,killed 3 ppl in Woodstock-mom,baby,their family friend—who were crossing rd leaving concert around 8:15 p.m. Case closed w no charges in Jan '18,inves. concluded hitting 3 was unavoidable, no speeding (no pic fam friend) @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/tfA9PY2h80
— Nicole Carr (@NicoleCarrWSB) February 15, 2019
In October 2017, Kaitlin Hunt’s husband, Brandon Hunt, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Woodstock, claiming that the city “knew or should have known that the traffic on Arnold Mill Road would pose a risk of unreasonable harm to the attendees coming to and from the concert.”
The victims, all from Florida, were in Georgia after escaping Hurricane Irma in Port Saint Lucie, and decided to attend the 20th annual Woodstock Summer Concert Series on the night they were killed.
In May 2018, five days before her high school graduation, authorities charged Reardon with nine misdemeanors, including in part, vehicular homicide, failure to yield, and text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle. Reardon’s lawyers argued that the charges should be dropped.
“The state is trying to play to the fears of the jury by injecting texting and driving into the case in order to convolute the facts and curry favor on behalf of the state,” Reardon’s lawyers argued, claiming that their client was proven not to be texting and driving when the accident happened.
“This count is solely incorporated into the accusation because it plays to the fears of every parent, driver and potential juror — a 17-year-old teenager texting while driving that ends up killing someone in an accident.”
Last year, Reardon told Channel 2 Action News that she played the incident over and over in her mind and there was nothing she could have done differently that would have stopped the accident from happening.
“I never saw anyone coming. I wasn’t texting. I wasn’t doing anything, just looking at the road. My eyes were on the road,” Reardon said.
Cherokee Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Marianne Kelley told Patch that Reardon was not initially arrested because investigators “wanted to complete a thorough investigation.” Solicitor General Moss added last year that Reardon was never told charges would not be filed.
The arrest warrant for Reardon indicated she didn’t use care when putting her cellphone down and “failed to give warning by sounding her horn when necessary.”
In February, one of Reardon’s lawyers, Manny Arora, argued that investigators closed the case four months after the accident, writing in a police report that charges were “not warranted” because the accident was unavoidable. Arora said authorities only charged the teen after Brandon Hunt filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
“The idea is that if Ms. Reardon is convicted, then the city arguably avoids liability because they can blame her for being at fault,” Arora told Action News.
The area where the family crossed the road now has new streetlights and a crosswalk area.
Reardon is scheduled for trial in March. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Zoe Reardon/Police Handout; Facebook]