A Jeep Cherokee driven by a 17-year-old struck a new mom, her baby daughter in arms, and a family friend who were walking to a concert in downtown Woodstock. All three died of their injuries. While the resulting death are certainly heartbreaking and tragic, a jury is about to decide the fate of the 17 year-old driver. Whether the deaths of Kaitlin Hunt, 3-month-old Riley Hunt and Kathy Deming were due to criminal actions or a simple accident will be decided in a Georgia courtroom as the driver faces nine misdemeanor charges, including second-degree vehicular homicide and distracted driving.
On-site and subsequent investigations involved cellphone records, witness interviews and a crash re-enactment informed by U.S. Naval Observatory expertise on how dark it was at the time. A Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigation concluded the pedestrians should have been visible; an expert defense witness disagrees. “I found that it was unavoidable,” said the defendant’s expert, a former Sandy Springs and Fulton County police officer who now owns an independent Reconstruction & Expert Consulting firm.
The driver of the Jeep has said she never saw the pedestrians. Investigators have determined she wasn’t speeding or under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the undisputed facts are that the pedestrians who were killed were wearing dark clothing, and the collision site at the time had no traffic lights or a marked pedestrian crossing zone, as it does now. The initial Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigation recommended no charges be filed. But, in an about-face, the County has brought criminal charges against the driver who was 17 years-old at the time of the wreck and is now 19.