After a day of emotionally wrenching testimony from grieving friends and family members, a teen driver pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, fines and other conditions in a 2017 crash in downtown Woodstock that left two women and a baby dead.
Zoe Reardon, who turns 19 on Tuesday, was sentenced to 36 months on probation and ordered to complete 240 hours of community service and safe driver training. She must pay about $4,000 in fines that she can reduce if she donates to a foundation that works to combat distracted driving, and her license will be suspended for between 12 and 36 months.
“I regret this is the first time you’ve ever heard from me,” she told the loved ones of Kaitlin Hunt, her 3-month-old Riley Hunt and their family friend Kathy Deming, who all died from their injuries after Reardon’s Jeep struck them in downtown Woodstock.
“I’ve often wanted to reach out. I can’t imagine how much pain you’re experiencing. For all your heartbreak and loss, I am truly sorry.”
Cherokee County State Court Judge Alan Jordan granted first offender status.
“You’re pretty young,” he told Reardon during sentencing. “You’ve got a lifetime ahead of you. I expect this is something you’re going to have a hard time dealing with the rest of your life.”
Kaitlin Hunt’s 30th birthday would have been Wednesday.
“I wish there was more I could have done to make it better for y’all,” Jordan told the victims’ friends and relatives. “I sincerely hope you folks can start to find closure.”
The family issued a statement after Monday’s proceedings:
“Our desire has always been for the woman who killed our daughter, Kaitlin Hunt; granddaughter, Riley Hunt; and dear friend Kathy Deming to be held accountable for her actions.
What happened is a tragedy on multiple levels, and there is no outcome that will make our family whole again. Court actions cannot heal us — we must continue to heal ourselves.”
The plea hearing lasted for much of the day and included heartbreaking tributes from Hunt and Deming’s family members and friends and video slideshows. Hunt’s sister, Lauren White of Louisiana, expecting her first child and due this week, wasn’t able to attend but sent a statement to be read in court.
“My sister taught me everything, except how to live without her,” White’s statement read. “The family chain is broken now, and nothing seems the same.”
Kaitlin was married to Brandon Hunt, her high school sweetheart. They had been living in Florida where she was in the U.S. Coast Guard and he worked in law enforcement. Kaitlin, the baby and their pets came up to Woodstock as Hurricane Irma approached.
“I remember getting the frantic call from Kaitlin’s mother and Brandon saying, ‘I sent them there to be safe,’” said Brandon’s mother, Mary White. He couldn’t bear to be in the courtroom, she explained.
“Everything he ever wanted in life is gone,” White said.
Reardon, now a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Texas, will be allowed to check in remotely during her probation period and is encouraged to complete at least some of her community service with the Casey Feldman Foundation, which combats distracted driving.
Investigators determined she was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was not speeding. She has told authorities she never saw the pedestrians, who were wearing dark clothing and were crossing an area of the road that, at the time, had no traffic lights, marked pedestrian crossing or other safety measures. The collision happened after the sun had set.
Riley died the night of the collision. Deming died 10 days later. Kaitlin Hunt was taken off life support a few days after the crash, surgeons having taken measures to follow her wishes as an organ donors.
The family will soon meet one of the organ recipients, said Kathy Vandiver, Kaitlin’s mother.
“I can’t wait to hear your heart beat again,” she said, reading aloud a letter to her daughter.
Several witnesses directed remarks to Reardon directly. While none of them believes she intentionally caused the tragic deaths, they say they don’t feel Reardon has shown remorse and are angry they never heard an apology or message of sympathy from her directly.
“A simple phone call would have made a world of difference,” said John Deming, one of Kathy Deming’s sons.
“It was probably on the advice of counsel that you didn’t reach out,” said her husband, Mike Deming. “I’m a lawyer. I get that.”
Still, he said, granting Reardon first-offender status felt like an insult.
“Where is the accountability?” he said. “We have to live with this for the rest of our lives. You don’t.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.