Ogden • Marilee Gardner wept Wednesday as she apologized for ramming her car into another vehicle on a June night last year, killing the two occupants inside.
“I am so sorry,” Gardner cried, as she explained that she was depressed and had hoped the crash would cause her own death — not the deaths of 20-year-old Maddison Haan and 19-year-old Tyler Christianson.
“I am truly sorry for what I have done,” she said after admitting to causing the crash in 2nd District Juvenile Court on Wednesday. “I know that saying sorry doesn’t change anything, but I am sorry. I will do all in my power to make amends.”
The now-17-year-old girl’s apology, however, was met with anger from the two victim’s families.
Tears rolled off Gardner’s face as she looked at each family member who spoke in court, as they called her a “murderer,” “selfish,” and a “terrorist.” She is hated, they told her, and many said they won’t forgive her for causing the crash that killed Haan and Christianson.
“You’re not only a murderer, you’re a thief,” said Lee Castillo, Haan’s uncle. “You stole something from my family and Tyler’s family. You stole my niece, you stole their cousin. You stole their friend. You’re a thief, and I don’t forgive you today.”
Several of the victims’ family members lamented the plea deal offered to Gardner. Initially charged with two counts of murder in adult court for June 30, 2016, crash, the girl was allowed to admit to one count of attempted murder in juvenile court on Wednesday — and she is expected to plead guilty to a second count of attempted murder in adult court in the coming weeks.
Judge Sherene Dillon ordered Gardner on Wednesday to a juvenile secure care facility, where she will likely stay until age 21. At that time, it is expected she will be sentenced to a three-year-to-life prison term in the adult system. This “blended sentence” will allow Gardner to receive help in the juvenile facility before being sent to the adult prison, according to attorneys.
But Haan’s and Christianson’s families said the admission to attempted murder did not tell the true facts: Gardner did kill their loved ones — it was not an attempt.
“Tyler and Maddi do not deserve the treatment given to them by this court system,” said grandfather Dennis Christianson. “There will never be any justice for Tyler and Maddi.”
Haan’s mother, Jocelyn Castillo, recounted Wednesday all of the things her 20-year-old daughter has missed since her 2016 death. There were family birthdays, trips to Bear Lake, her 21st birthday, her first day at Weber State University. She died two days before Castillo’s birthday, a day the mother said she spent this year at her daughter’s headstone.
“She missed a lot,” the mother said. “She missed too much. She should have been with us through all of these things and more.”
Just after midnight on June 30, 2016, Gardner, then 16, was driving about 100 mph in a 45 mph zone when she rear-ended Haan’s sedan with her SUV, according to charging documents. The impact sent the car into a traffic signal pole near 6000 South and 3500 West in Roy.
Haan was driving the car and died at the scene, according to charges. Christianson was taken to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries.
After she was arrested, Gardner told officers the crash was an attempt to kill herself, according to charges.
The teen had stolen her parents’ SUV earlier in the evening, charges state. The documents say Gardner has a history of being suicidal.
The Salt Lake Tribune does not typically identify juvenile suspects, unless they are charged in adult court, as Gardner has been.