Teen's Attorney Reacts to New Verdict in Retrial of Involuntary Manslaughter Case

By: Litsa Pappas Email
By: Litsa Pappas Email

A Rockingham County teen is resting easy now after being found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

This was the second time the teen, Sean McDonald, was in court for this case. The first trial, he was found guilty, but this jury reversed that verdict.

The crash happened last August in the Belmont Estates neighborhood, leaving 19-month-old Kate Beagle dead.

It's a tragedy on both sides: a baby killed in a car accident, and the driver, just 16 years old, on his way to school.

"I think I said it at the beginning of the trial that there'd be no winners, and really I think all that happened today is we were able to avoid another tragedy," said Aaron Cook, McDonald's lawyer.

Cook says the jury really listened to his evidence.

"One of the key points in the case is the physical evidence. The distance it took for the car to stop didn't support the theory that he was going at a high rate of speed," said Cook.

In the first trial, a judge found speeding to be a factor to convict McDonald of involuntary manslaughter. This time, the verdict changed, Cook says, all thanks to the jury.

"I think juries are really good at hearing evidence, working through the evidence and reaching a verdict, and I think they worked very hard," said Cook.

The jury worked hard for more than two hours to come up with the 'not guilty' verdict.

It's a verdict that left the courtroom in tears of both joy and pain.

Kate Beagle's family will never get its baby back, but for McDonald, it's a chance to start over.

"He's a really neat kid. I really enjoyed getting to know him, and I'm happy for him that he can put this behind him and move on with his life, and I hope the Beagle family can do the same," said Cook.

The prosecutor, Marsha Garst, says she's disappointed by the verdict and that it's still a sad story for the Beagle family.

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