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Judge Reverses Decision: Kaitlyn Dunaway Gets Jail Time

The Sonoma State student struck and killed 2-year-old Calli Murray in a Rohnert Park crosswalk Dec. 1, 2010, as she left Sunrise Park with her mother Ling. Police said Dunaway was texting and driving at the time of the accident.

Judge Bradford DeMeo sentenced Kaitlyn Dunaway to 120 days in jail Wednesday in a Santa Rosa courtroom — five of which will be spent in custody and 115 on electric home confinement, in addition to three years probation.

Dunaway, 19, 2-year-old Calli Murray on Dec. 1, 2010. The Sonoma State student admitted to texing and driving when she ran over Calli, who would have turned 3 on Christmas, and her mother Ling, 42.

Today's decision came as a surprise for Dunaway's attorney, Chris Andrian.

that Dunaway would likely face three years of probation and 300 hours of community service in leiu of six months in jail, after she pleaded no contest to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. But facts that he "was previously unaware of" changed his "perspective," he said today.

Dunaway initially denied she was texting when she talked to Rohnert Park police, Brooks said. Andrian said there is no question Dunaway was texting before the collision.

Rohnert Park police, however, concluded the accident was Murray's fault, Andrian said. The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office then hired an accident reconstruction expert from Wyoming who concluded Dunaway was at fault because she was texting, Andrian said.

However, Dunaway's lawyer said, she was "willing to accept the ruling" and never wanted to go to trial if it meant "proving a mother killed her daughter," Andrian said.

"My view of the case [is that] there is compelling evidence that would negate her guilt — we have investigated this case extensively," Andrian said. But, DeMeo was "obviously very moved in reading what the family had been through. Clearly he was impacted by it."

Dunaway fought back tears throughout the three-hour court hearing, and looked straight into the eyes of the Murray family as they read letters to her amid a half-full court room.

"If there was anything I could do to take back what's happened, and to take away their pain, I would do it in a heartbeat," Dunaway said before sentencing. "I'm very, very sorry."

In addition to "home confinement," in which Dunaway will be allowed to attend college classes, she:

  • Will have her driver's license suspended for one year.
  • Must complete 200 hours of additional community service, spent speaking at schools and to the public about distracted driving by Nov. 15, 2013.
  • Has to undergo counseling.
  • Can't be in the proximity to liquor stores or bars, or consume any alcohol.
  • Must submit to unwarranted searches of her person and property at any time.
  • Pay restitution to the Murray family in the amount of $1,480.
  • Refrain from using a cell phone in any way when driving in the future.

Judge DeMeo said distracted driving, specifically texting, is not just a problem for young people.

"This is a problem that is rampant [by] all generations," he said.

The case’s lead prosecutor, Craig Brooks, said Dunaway was on her way to pick up a friend when she hit the Murrays. Her text read: Almos...

DeMeo "saw all the facts, instead of just the defense's version of the facts," Brooks said. "It wasn't just an accident."

Jeff Murray, Calli's father and Ling's husband, said the sentence wasn't enough. He said he'd like to see the maximum sentence — one year in jail for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

"This was no accident from our understanding — the defendant took our daughter's life when she was breaking the law," he said. "We have to live with that every day, knowing that Calli's not coming back."

Ling Murray said she wasn't strong enough to face Dunaway. She recalled seeing her daughter "cold and lifeless in her coffin" and spending whole days in Calli's room after her death "to be with her."

"I cant stand here today to face the person who killed my daughter and caused myself so much suffering," she wrote in a letter that was read to the court.

Ling, who has undergone nearly a year of what she called "painful, nearly unbearable" surgeries, had her hip, legs and arms shattered, said when she woke up, all she could think about was that Calli was alone.

"I woke up and I said, I want to see my daughter, but the cold hard fact is that she is dead," Ling said.

Though it's been nearly a year since the tragedy, the Murrays said they hope Calli's death will teach others about the .

Al Andres, or "Papa Al," who is Calli's grandfather, said he is working hard to lobby state legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown to impose higher fines on cell phone use while driving, and to get the law amended to reflect a "fair" sentence for this type of accident.

Texting while driving should be a felony offense, he said.

Andres is hoping to create "Calli's Law," and pass laws that make stricter the penalties for accidents like the Murrays' — asserting that texting and driving is even worse than drunk driving, becasue drivers are looking down instead of at the road.

"All of us must put away our cell phones," Andres said.

And while the family said Calli's death could teach others about distracted driving, .

"Ms. Dunaway, you will never know the pain you have caused our family," Andres said.

Editor's note: Dunaway will begin to serve the five days of her term in custody
starting Dec. 27 and 115 days under electronic home confinement will begin
Jan. 27. Bay City News contributed to this report.

T November 18, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Please, it is completely different! You have got to be kidding me?
T November 18, 2011 at 03:24 AM
It may have played a role? PLEASE, texting while driving is deadly. Just google texting while driving and see accidents equal to drunk driving. It needs to have a stricter fine if caught, like $10,000 and if you kill someone, 16 years in jail. It is manslaughter. The judge should have given her a much stricter sentence, like 10 years in jail, and that would likely save others from the same fate.
T November 18, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Oh, and what's worse, she did it sober. I can't imagine her drunk.
T November 18, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Her slimy lawyer should feel guilty. I feel badly for her, as this seems to be the norm with teens and twenty-somethings, but she needs to be the poster child for much more stringent laws against texting. She should be in jail for at least a decade. But, most importantly, we need to change the laws and make them much more strict. The worse thing is that she was sober, which to me is worse than drunk driving, because she was in her correct frame of mind and knowingly broke the law texting some trite comments. As a mother of a 2 year old I am outraged at the judges decision and feel horribly for the parents.
T November 18, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Maybe you should tell her she can redeem herself by passing legislature for tougher texting laws, including a long-term jail sentence for manslaughter while texting.
T November 18, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Danielle, I totally agree with what you wrote! Jail is the only real consequence and deterrent. Angela must be her friend.
Angela Hart November 18, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Please readers, keep comments civil. This is a hard thing for both sides, I think all of your thoughts are valid, but we need to refrain from hurtful, slanderous speech. I appreciate it. Thanks, Angela.
T November 18, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Sorry, it must be hard, but I am SO OUTRAGED at the slap-on-the-wrist judgement. I think you should randomly ask people in a diverse area, such as in downtown SF what they think, I think that most people would be appalled at the lenient sentence. I know I have been talking to a lot of people about it and they are all appalled. What you wrote say's a whole lot: Jeff Murray, Calli's father and Ling's husband, said the sentence wasn't enough. He said he'd like to see the maximum sentence — one year in jail for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. "This was no accident from our understanding — the defendant took our daughter's life when she was breaking the law," he said. "We have to live with that every day, knowing that Calli's not coming back." Ling Murray said she wasn't strong enough to face Dunaway. She recalled seeing her daughter "cold and lifeless in her coffin" and spending whole days in Calli's room after her death "to be with her." "I cant stand here today to face the person who killed my daughter and caused myself so much suffering," she wrote in a letter that was read to the court. Ling, who has undergone nearly a year of what she called "painful, nearly unbearable" surgeries, had her hip, legs and arms shattered, said when she woke up, all she could think about was that Calli was alone. "I woke up and I said, I want to see my daughter, but the cold hard fact is that she is dead," Ling said.
Goofpod November 18, 2011 at 05:17 AM
I'll say it again: the technology to automatically disable the texting platform when starting the car's ignition (or the entire cell phone if desired, though I would disagree with that) already exists and could be implemented now. But, just like petroleum lobbyists silencing non-petro technology for transportation, the big carriers rule the day in Washington. They'd hate to see their numbers automatically diminish from no usage in cars, that's a substantial chunk of revenue. It's going to take one congress person's relative, or other high profile person in the federal government to be killed or maimed by a texter before something serious gets accomplished. Sigh...
Concerned Citizen November 18, 2011 at 08:31 AM
Brittany, I was a Firefighter Paramedic for 23 years. I've seen more preventable death than you can imagine. I've never hit or killed or maimed anyone, because I don't drink and drive, text and drive, eat and drive, or take my two hands off the wheel, especially when my two beautiful kids are with me. Your Strawman fallacy is tired and immature. You have no idea how I drive, or live my life, but I know what Kaitlyn did, and it was wrong, and it took a life. Trust me when I say Kaitlyn will move on with her life, because she has a life to move on with. She has a healthy body, unlike the mother she disabled. She can have her own kids, unlike the family who lost theirs to a wreckless, irresponsible driver.
Elaine Elwick Barr November 18, 2011 at 05:14 PM
How is the fine that specific amount? I think that should be much higher. Vehicles are weapons of mass destruction, and negligence in that should be dealt with appropriately. The man who steered the Cosco Bussard got wayyyy more time and fines..and he didn't kill a baby.
Matt November 18, 2011 at 10:52 PM
There are several other important facts in this tragedy that most people don't know that shifts some of the blame to others including the City of Rohnert Park. First the date and time of the accident is important to consider. At the exact time and day of the accident the sky very quickly and unusally changed from light to dark. Next, is the location of the crosswalk. The crosswalk is very not located on a corner, but mid-block and even without the change of light it is extremely difficult to see. Most people have their eyes fixed at the corner or beyond this crosswalk. There are no flashers. Dunaway may have looked up to see things clear and focused on the area beyond the crosswalk prior to her text. Also, there are bushes along the sidewalk which further hinders a motorists vision of people coming from the park to the crosswalk. The cars in this area are traveling fast around 40 mph and this is a very dangerous road to cross. Frankly, there should never be a crosswalk in this location. There is also long history of accidents in this area. The City of Rohnert is partially to blame for not installing flashers here and at all crosswalks along Snyder Lane long ago. Dunaway should never been texting and clearly has some blame here but we all know that there is no guarantee that cars will come to a stop when crossing road. We now need to put away our anger here and move on and help ALL the parties heal. Also, Rohnert Park needs to install flashers at all crosswalks now!
Abby November 22, 2011 at 02:42 AM
What I haven't seen in news reports but is common knowledge among Petaluma High grads is that Kaitlyn was disciplined for texting in school. Oh, but she was a TA and was texting a test-taking student during a final! She was also guilty of changing grades in the computer. Perhaps had she gotten into more trouble for cheating via texts in high school we wouldn't be discussing this tragedy today. She should serve more time in jail.
emily November 24, 2011 at 01:35 PM
I would like to tell her that, someday, when she holds her own baby in her arms, she think back and remember how she KILLED a beautiful little baby girl.... only 2 years old. She deserves a MUCH harsher sentence. 120 days in jail for KILLING a little girl due to mere ignorance and stupidity? That is not enough. She should be REQUIRED to appear in person at local high schools throughout her entire county, and give talks what she did and how STUPID it is to text and drive. I see it ALL the time when stopped at an intersection (look around, everyone.... I would LOVE to sit at a corner and observe for a while day) and it makes me so sick.
Tammy Mills December 08, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Someone stated they wish they had all the facts of the incident, well I'll give you some facts. I'm a personal friend of the family. I've been there since this happened. When Ling and Calli were crossing, at the crosswalk, there was another vehicle, stopped waiting for them to cross. Kaitlyn went around the stopped car, because she was to busy texting to pay attention, and hit Ling and Calli. Texting while you're driving is a choice, not an accident. Before some people make comments, they need to stop and think whether or not they have all the facts. Someone above stated not everyone comes to a stop which is true, but in this case, the car was stopped. Yea, Kaitlyn is reeeealllly suffering. Jeff and Ling ran into her at the store; she was with several friends; they were laughing and having a good'ol time.
Karen Whitehurst Gillespie December 08, 2011 at 02:24 AM
I love the way her sentencing will not begin until after she has enjoyed the holidays with her family and friends. Part of her punishment should be to spend Christmas with the Murray family. But unfortunatley that would cause the Murray's even more pain....
Karen Whitehurst Gillespie December 08, 2011 at 02:33 AM
She (Kaitlyn) never wanted to go to trial......This sounds more like she is trying to play the angelic part, not a remarkable outlook. She probably saved herself a lot more jail time.
kim michelis January 20, 2012 at 06:56 PM
this was not an accident a small child was killed because she intentionally broke the law and didnt care. she should have her license suspended for the rest of her life she is danger to all of us and will do this again and every time she has to take a bus or get a ride she will think of that little girl who will never drive or go to the prom or 1st date hopefully she will get life in prison the next time she kills someone while using her phone and driving
Tom Newburn August 23, 2012 at 04:39 AM
You know, I have driven some 800,000 miles in my life. Don't know if I've crossed 800,000 crosswalks yet. But if I'm driving, that's all I'm going to do. And if I going to cross a crosswalk, especially with my grand children, we are going to do one thing first, we, are going to look.
Dee Baucher August 23, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Brittany: It is exactly this attitude of yours (and others, including Kaitlyn) that makes us so mad. Clearly, you don't get it. It was not just an "accident" that might "happen everyday". It was a deliberate choice to disregard the law, common sense, and the rights of others, including a small child and her mother. Kaitlyn chose the priority of her immediate communication with her friends, rather than the priority of safety for the innocent people in her path. Perhaps this was merely an issue of poor judgement... thinking she could drive well, even while texting. But we have all been educated through the media to know that distracted driving is treacherous. She made a selfish decision that resulted in a young child's death and unimaginable suffering for her mother and family. She should have faced far more serious consequences, obviously, since you (for one) have demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the very significant lapse in her judgement. The judicial system has totally failed the people of our community. They needed to actually take a stand in this case, and they failed miserably.
Dee Baucher August 23, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Tom: The first priority of road safety in any community must be to protect pedestrians. The construction of safe crosswalks with appropriate lighting, markings, stop signs, and other features is critical. Drivers of vehicles must always respect the rights of those on foot, and must be vigilent about watching out for young children in residential neighborhoods. ( Especially a young mother with a child near a park in a residential neighborhood!) This is just common sense and decent behavior. Sometimes tragic accidents will occur even when there has been a vigilant, law abiding, driver. This was an unfortunate event where a number of factors probably played a role in the outcome, but where a careless driver was clearly most responsible. You are so right to take all the precautions you do.
Moral Conflict August 23, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I agree with you Dee, however Strictly from a common sense standpoint…. Let’s take a look at a few other things shall we. Dog =65 lbs, Horse = 1,000 lbs, Person = 150 lbs, Car =3,500 lbs Car = 3,500lbs, Loaded Semi Tractor Truck =60,000lbs Skyscraper = 500,000 tons, Earth 6.580 sextillion tons There are thousands of examples I could cite, but the point is, who takes who into account? Does the horse care about the dog, does the semi care what the little Honda does, and does the earth consider the skyscraper when it needs to adjust its tectonic plates? Or does the other, smaller entity have the responsibility to account for the larger one to afford its safety?? In no way am I saying distracted driving is ok, however this incident could have been the same had she not been texting. Period. It IS the mothers fault that her daughter died, plain and simple. It is very unfortunate, and it is unfortunate that Kaitlyn was texting, but it could have easily been a radio adjustment, a sneeze, a driver with less than perfect vision, rain, a dirty windshield, or nothing at all distracting and the outcome would have been the same. Ling did her daughter a great disservice, and she lost her daughter because of it. I feel bad that Kaitlyn is the young girl who Ling happened to choose to drag her daughter out in front of. Bottom line, you watch out for things that can kill you, or you die. Plain and simple. My heart goes out to everyone involved.
Tom Newburn August 24, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Laws are written to set a standard. But the law cannot protect anyone. Just because youre right, absolutely right, can also be there very thing that will put you in grave danger. One can assume way to much. Keep it simple. Is it ok to cross? End if story. Im afraid Ms Ling learned a lesson at a terrible cost. And that lesson is there old cross walkers and bold cross walkers, but there are no such things as old bold cross walkers.
SSU Student September 19, 2012 at 07:12 AM
What use to society would Kaitlyn be if you sent her off you jail for 20 years or whatever? Why ruin her life and not make it so she can move on with her life and maybe be an asset to society? If you send her off to jail to sit for 16 years nothing would or could come of her life? You say think about if the 2 year old was your child, but think about if Kaitlyn was your child. Wouldn't you want your child to have a chance at life, to be somebody, to make a difference? Kaitlyn is a damn humane people!
joda January 05, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Nope, Brittany, that would NEVER happen to a responsible, respectful decent person. I do not and will never text while driving, because it is irresponsible and if you think that is normal acceptable behavior, then no doubt you may be joining the likes of Kaitlyn Dunaway in jail or on probation. Sickening. Intentions do not matter, it is the result of your actions that matter. I'm sure Hitler had the best of intentions, however, he killed millions of people. Good intentions are irrelevant, responsible behavior is tantamount. A reckless depraved heart is by far different from that of a responsible respectful soul.
joda January 05, 2013 at 04:22 AM
Dunaway's lawyer, Adriano, said this. The Rhonert Park police NEVER published or presented a report determining it was Murray's fault. We all know what a lawyer's word is worth. It was PROVEN she was texting while driving. Do you really thing someone would PLOW through a mother and a toddler in a cross-walk if they weren't distracted by texting? Please, you are ridiculous.
joda January 05, 2013 at 04:24 AM
Well I don't do those things and remain attentive while driving, so I guess I can get my stones ready. Batter up!
John January 08, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Maybe because she killed a child and that will never have a chance at life? It's called punishment! You're part of the problem "SSU Student".
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 08, 2013 at 04:16 AM
The sentance is to much. Kaitlyn Dunaway has to live knowing she was the cause of the accident. We need to move on
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 08, 2013 at 04:21 AM
Why did Ling not wait for it to me safe to cross? Was Kaitlyn driving to fast?

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