KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A passenger inside a sport utility vehicle driven by a 16-year-old girl accused of causing a fatal crash because of texting told detectives she had been swerving and listening to loud music.
Rachel N. Gannon, of Kansas City, was charged Thursday with second-degree involuntary manslaughter, third-degree assault and texting while driving in connection to a Sept. 26, 2011 crash in Kansas City.
Following the crash, 72-year-old Loretta J. Larimer was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Larimer's 10-year-old granddaughter sustained substantial, but not life-threatening injuries.
A 15-year-old boy riding in the car with Gannon at the time of the crash told investigators on scene Gannon was looking at her phone, texting, and the music inside of the car was turned up too loud while driving, according to court documents provided by Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who announced Thursday Gannon would be charged as an adult.
"It's a very serious incident we have here," Zahnd told 41 Action News. "We have a woman who is dead, another young girl who was injured as a result of this crash. So I think all of those factors came together to where the court believed it would be more appropriately handled in adult court."
The passenger said Gannon was swerving while texting, and eventually went off the right side of the roadway and into a ditch.
According to Larimer's granddaughter, Larimer had seen the swerving SUV approaching and stopped her vehicle, but Gannon struck the front side of the car.
"They had pulled completely off the road, into the grass, and had stopped," Larimer's son said Thursday.
While it's been a long six months for his family, John Larimer said, he believes Gannon has already been punished enough.
"I believe enough lives have been shattered and ruined," John Larimer said. "We're finally seeing some closure here. Now it's time to move on and think positive."
Gannon admitted at the scene she had been texting, according to court documents.
Under Missouri law, it is only illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to text while driving. This is the first case in Platte County where an underage driver has been charged with the crime.
The Larimer family came face-to-face with Gannon for the first time at a hearing which ruled she would be charged as an adult.
"I feel bad for her and her family," Lohn Larimer said. "They were distressed over this and I feel bad for them."
Even before the court system reveals the teen's consequences, the family is finding closure through Loretta Larimer's words.
"She would think let's have no ill will or negative feelings toward this young girl," her son said.
41 Action News' Aaron Heintzelman, Mitch Weber & Lisa Benson contributed to this report