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Three hundred and sixty-five days after her daughter was propelled through the window of her sports-utility vehicle, a woman on Friday agreed to go to jail for 10 days to resolve her negligent homicide case.
Carolyn Dawn Hughes, 24, pleaded guilty Friday to a class A misdemeanor count of negligent homicide. However, in an agreement with prosecutors, the plea will be held in abeyance for 18 months. If Hughes finishes her court ordered requirements by then, the charge will be reduced to a class B misdemeanor count of reckless driving and an infraction for failing to wear a seat belt.
Hughes will report to the Salt Lake County jail by Sept. 16 to serve her 10 days there. She also must serve 300 hours of community service, forfeit her drivers license and complete a driver safety course.
Hughes attorney, Steven K. Burton, explained the agreement Friday to 3rd District Court Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman. Hughes began to cry as Burton described to the judge the crash that killed 3-year-old Paisley Hayden.
On Sept. 3, Hughes' SUV was in a northbound left-turn lane at the intersection of Redwood Road and Research Way (about 2700 South) in West Valley City. The SUV carried eight children from multiple families. Burton on Friday explained that Hughes turned left on a yellow light and didn't realize that drivers in the opposing lanes were facing green lights.
A southbound vehicle collided with Hughes' SUV on the passenger side when she attempted the turn. Paisley was ejected through a window on the driver's side and crushed by the overturning SUV. Hughes' 2-year-old son suffered critical injuries to his leg.
Police later determined that no one in Hughes' SUV was wearing a restraint. On Friday, Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Anna Rossi emphasized to the judge that Paisley was not in a car seat.
A crying Hughes answered "Yes" when Bernards-Goodman asked her if that is what happened. Hughes could be heard crying again as she formally told the judge she pleaded "guilty."
Hughes is a member of the polygamous Kingston Group, according to former sect members, also known as the Davis County Cooperative and the Latter Day Church of Christ. Former members of the Kingstons say parents in the sect often do not buckle up their children in cars because they have more children in the vehicle than restraints. The former members have been watching Hughes' case, hoping it spurs a change in the sect.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Burton said the Kingston Group does not dissuade followers from using seat belts. He said seat belts just weren't emphasized among Hughes friends and family.
Burton said his client hopes the court case doesn't overshadow the death of Paisley.
"The biggest tragedy is that her daughter passed away," Burton said.