Arizona Couple Who Drove Into Floodwaters, Killing 3 Kids, Get Probation After Their Children Appeal to Judge
Daniel Rawlings and his wife, Lacey Rawlings, received probation after their actions led to the deaths of two of their children and their niece. The sentencing came down after their surviving children asked that they not be sent to prison.
An Arizona couple whose actions led to the death of two of their children and their niece were spared prison time after their surviving children pleaded with a judge to allow them to come home.
Daniel Rawlings deliberately drove his truck across the flooded Bar X Crossing of Tonto creek near his family's home on Nov. 29, 2019. He and his wife, Lacey Rawlings, their children and their niece had already crossed Tonto Creek on their way home when they decided to cross again because "the kids are having fun," police say Lacey Rawlings told them. After driving around a warning barricade posted on the road, the vehicle got stuck and waters swept away two of the couple's children, 5-year-old Colby and 6-year-old Willa, as well as the couple's niece, 5-year-old Austin Rawlings.
The bodies of Colby and Austin were found the next day, the Arizona Silver Belt reported. Willa’s body was found on Dec. 13, 2019.
"It was extremely dangerous, extremely irresponsible behavior given the conditions out on that river at that time," prosecutor Bradley Soos told Inside Edition.
Daniel Rawlings pleaded guilty to manslaughter and Lacey Rawlings pleaded guilty to child abuse.
At the sentencing hearing, two of the couple's children, 12-year-old Nelly and 13-year-old Dallan, spoke on what it would mean to have their parents remain free.
"My dad is a big part of my life and I'd really love it if he could stay with me," Nelly said, in part.
"My life wouldn't be the same without them. And I would like for them to stay home," Dallan said.
Lacey Rawlings also spoke, tearfully saying, "It is a mistake I agonize over every single day and I will agonize over for the rest of my life."
Judge Timothy Wright was moved by the children's pleas, sentencing their parents to probation. “This case is a tragedy,” Wright said before issuing the sentences, the Silver Belt reported. “There’s nothing that can bring back the three children who perished. These defendants failed their children; they failed to be parents who said no."
Outside court, family members and supporters celebrated, but Soos, who asked the court that Daniel Rawlings receive the minimum term of four years for each manslaughter count, said the sentence handed down is not justice.
"I vehemently disagree with the decision," Soos told Inside Edition. "I think it sent a very bad message to those who may engage in similarly irresponsible conduct with children, that it will send a message they will not face serious punishment."
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