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Driver pleads guilty in death of 7-year-old girl

Jul 24, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

"I believe I should not have been driving because of my eyesight," defendant Sandra Pennock said.

Sandra Penncok admitted she was at fault for striking and killing a 7-year-old child with her car in May.

She pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide Friday in Riverton Circuit Court. The 77-year-old Riverton woman told a packed courtroom she has poor vision.

"I believe I should not have been driving because of my eyesight," defendant Sandra Pennock said.

"I have a glass eye in my right eye and glaucoma in my left."

She confirmed she wanted to plead guilty but had not reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. Without the protection of a plea agreement, she could receive the maximum penalty for the charge - a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, Circuit Court Judge Wesley Roberts told her.

Pennock said she understood, and she entered a guilty plea anyway.

She was driving west at about 3 p.m. on May 22 on Sunset Drive, Pennock said. She was on her way home from the Riverton Senior Center.

"While driving, I felt a bump and I pulled over immediately," she said. "I jumped out and discovered I had hit a child. Later in the day I learned she had passed away."

Roberts had Pennock explain how driving with her vision problems led to her hitting the child - Sophia Archer, 7, of Riverton.

"My glaucoma is affected by conditions like brightness, darkness (and) storms," Pennock said.

The sun was out and shining on May 22 when she struck Archer, Pennock said. The sunshine affected her vision, and as a result she did not see the child, or the crosswalk the girl was in Pennock said.

"I believe ... that I shouldn't have been driving (due to) the conditions that day," she said. "I could not drive in a safe manner with the sun."

Roberts concluded Pennock had given a factual basis for her guilty plea. He found her guilty and convicted her of the misdemeanor.

"I will never drive again, and I have released my driver's license," Pennock said. "I am so sorry that this tragedy happened, that I took a child from her mother ... I would never knowingly go out and harm a child. I am just so sorry."

The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation for Pennock and said he likely will hold a sentencing hearing in about two months.

If the investigation is finished earlier, however, he will hold the hearing sooner in order to resolve the case quickly for the victim's family.

"I feel there needs to be some finality and closure for you folks," Roberts said.

Attorneys Benjamin Rounsborg and John Michael Blomstrom represented Pennock at the hearing. Ember Oakley, a deputy in the Fremont County Attorney's Office, represented the state.

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Sandra Pennock was escorted into the courtroom Friday morning by her representing counsel, Benjamin Rounsborg and John Michael Blomstrom (not pictured). The Riverton woman pleaded guilty to causing the death of 7-year-old Sofia Archer in May. 	 Photo by Tibby McDowell

Sandra Pennock was escorted into the courtroom Friday morning by her representing counsel, Benjamin Rounsborg and John Michael Blomstrom (not pictured). The Riverton woman pleaded guilty to causing the death of 7-year-old Sofia Archer in May. Photo by Tibby McDowell


Sandra Pennock was escorted into the courtroom Friday morning by her representing counsel, Benjamin Rounsborg and John Michael Blomstrom (not pictured). The Riverton woman pleaded guilty to causing the death of 7-year-old Sofia Archer in May. 	 Photo by Tibby McDowell

Sandra Pennock was escorted into the courtroom Friday morning by her representing counsel, Benjamin Rounsborg and John Michael Blomstrom (not pictured). The Riverton woman pleaded guilty to causing the death of 7-year-old Sofia Archer in May. Photo by Tibby McDowell

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