Year in jail, $2,000 fine possible for defendant in death of childJun 14, 2015 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
A 77-year-old Riverton woman is facing up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine after the State of Wyoming filed one charge of vehicular homicide against her over the death of 7-year-old Sophia Archer.
The charges come after the Fremont County Coroner listed the child's death as a homicide on Friday.
She was struck and killed by a vehicle driven Sandra Pennock in a crosswalk at the 100 block of East Sunset Drive on May 22.
Pennock came before Riverton Circuit Court Judge Wesley Roberts on Friday for an initial appearance. Although she had not yet hired legal counsel, she is required to obtain it before her next court date on June 30.
Roberts said Pennock is charged with driving in a "criminally negligent manner." Wyoming statute states that a person acts with criminal negligence when, "through a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise, (s)he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the harm (s)he is accused of causing will occur, and the harm results."
Pennock has no criminal history.
Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun requested that the court not allow Pennock to operate a vehicle and be confined to her home in Riverton.
"The state is alleging that, among other things, Ms. Pennock operated the vehicle when she simply didn't have adequate vision to do so," LeBrun said, adding that she hit the girl on a day that was "very well lit."
LeBrun said a house arrest order would be best because jail time was inappropriate due to Pennock's age and health conditions.
He also requested a $10,000 unsecured bond.
At her hearing, Roberts asked Pennock a series of questions, but he cautioned her to answer carefully. He asked wether she lived alone, had equity she could use to pay a fine, whether she had family in Riverton, and how many vehicles she owned.
Pennock confirmed that she did live alone, and that she had "very little equity."
She said her daughter lived just outside of Riverton, and that she owned the vehicle that struck the girl, as well as a street-legal, side-by-side motor vehicle that hadn't been driven in two years.
Roberts said that regardless of whether Pennock is found guilty, it is important that she be restrictive travel so that nobody is put in harms' way.
"We just don't need a second case," he said.
Cheryl Smith, Pennock's daughter, agreed at the hearing that she would take responsibility for her mother and report any violations if they occurred.
Roberts ordered that Pennock could only ride as a passenger in Smith's vehicle, and could not leave city limits except to travel to Smith's home.
Smith said her mother would abide by those terms.
"She doesn't even want to drive," Smith told Roberts.
Roberts also considered mandating that Pennock wear a tracking anklet to monitor her location, but said it seemed too restrictive considering her clean record.
"I don't know what more I can do," Roberts said. "I hope that this is the right way to do it."
Roberts ordered that Pennock surrender her driver's license before leaving the courthouse, and that she not have any contact with the parents and siblings of Sophia Archer.
Pennock's next hearing is set for 9 a.m. on June 30.