Teen Guilty Of Involuntary Manslaughter, Lawyer Appeals Sentence

By: Litsa Pappas
By: Litsa Pappas

Both families say this is a tragedy on both sides.

A late summer crash left Kate Beagle dead, and now the driver of that car knows his punishment.

The accident happened in the Belmont Estates neighborhood in Rockingham County.

During the trial today the prosecutor presented lots of evidence including the 9-1-1 calls immediately following the accident.

One of those calls was from the driver, 16-year-old Sean McDonald. In it, he sounded calm and said the sunlight was in his eyes, he tried to clear the windshield, and ran off the road, hitting a group of people.

Virginia State Police spoke in court today too. They said McDonald had an abnormal reaction to the crash, with little emotion. They also said his car never braked, there were no skid marks, and the music he was playing while driving was really loud.

McDonald's defense was that he couldn't see well and that he was going the speed limit.

A man who drove in that same area that morning took the witness stand and said he had the same visibility issues while driving that day.

Other witnesses who were there when the crash happened said the jeep was clearly speeding when it hit the five kids and two adults.

After five hours of witness testimony and evidence presentations, the judge found McDonald guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The judge says he's guilty because speed was a significant factor in the crash. Plus he says the loud music shows he was likely distracted, and that McDonald was well aware that young kids walk in that neighborhood around that time of day.

McDonald will now serve time in the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the judge is leaving it up to the Department to determine how long he'll be there.

McDonald's lawyer says he's appealing the sentence because the teen should not be disciplined to that extreme. He suggests giving him a probation officer and getting help instead of serving time.

He says it was an honest accident and the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

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