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Driver pleads guilty to killing two Mounds View High School students, injuring third

September 27, 2018

A Maple Grove woman who sped into a car carrying three Mounds View High School students in 2016, killing two and badly injuring a third, pleaded guilty Thursday to the crimes in exchange for 10 years probation instead of prison time.

Rachel Kayl, 33, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to two counts of criminal vehicular homicide while driving in a grossly negligent manner and one count of criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm in the Dec. 1, 2016 crash. Two counts of second-degree manslaughter were dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Bridget Giere and Stephanie Carlson, both 16, died at the scene. Samantha Redden, then 17, survived but suffered several life-threatening injuries. The teenagers were heading to school.

Its such a tremendous, debilitating feeling, Gieres father, Martin Giere, said of his daughters loss. I cry every day.

Catherine and Steven Carlson, Stephanies parents, said they were glad Kayl finally took responsibility for her actions. Kayl was scheduled to plead guilty in the case Wednesday morning, but the deal seemed to fall apart and the case was set to go to trial next Monday. Then, she apparently made an about-face late Wednesday, prompting Thursday mornings hearing.

It was a long time coming, Steven Carlson said afterward. I think she finally took ownership of what happened.

We were all crying, Catherine Carlson said of about nine family members and friends who attended the guilty plea.

Redden was also in attendance, but declined to comment.

Kayl could face about 10 years in prison if she violates the terms of her probation. She agreed to stayed consecutive sentences of four years in prison for each the vehicular homicide counts and 1 1/2 years in prison for the vehicular operation count. Her plea also calls serving up to a year in the county workhouse at the judges discretion. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 19.

Kayl was driving her Chevrolet Trailblazer 81-82 mph in a 50 mph zone on Hwy. 96 at Old Hwy. 10 in Arden Hills when she struck a Chevrolet Equinox being driven by Redden, who suffered a collapsed lung, traumatic brain injury, significant blood loss, injury to her spleen and several broken bones.

I was in shock, a tearful Kayl said on the witness stand when asked why she couldnt recall some details of the crash.

Kayl testified that it was still dark out when the crash occurred about 7 a.m. She was going to work as a nanny in Arden Hills.

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Hassan Tahir asked Kayl if she was traveling at the same speed as other cars around her.

Yes, she said, prompting a police investigator sitting behind the victims families to shake her head.

You think that you were? he asked.

I was keeping up with the flow of traffic but I dont recall, Kayl said.

Kayl said she had no personal memory of her cars speed, but did not dispute evidence from her cars recording module that said she traveled 82 mph seconds before the crash.

I remember slamming on the brakes, Kayl said.

Tahir told Kayl that her car recorded no use of her brakes at the time.

I agree with the evidence, but I dont recall because it was I was in shock, she said.

Kayl testified that she saw a white figure pull out in front of her but didnt see any headlights on. She repeated her assertion that she slammed on her brakes.

The charges filed against Kayl show that she was traveling east on Hwy. 96 when she crashed into the Equinox, which was turning from the westbound lane of the highway onto southbound Old Hwy. 10.

A witness said that the Trailblazer blasted through the light going really fast,andthinsp; the charges said.

The car carrying the three girls rolled multiple times before coming to rest in the upright position.

Tahir asked if Kayl agreed that Reddens driving did not contribute to the crash.

Yes, she said. I believe my speed was a big factor. I trust that I was speeding. I dont remember.

Search warrants in the case revealed that Kayl had not placed any calls or text messages at the time of the crash, and no other factors were discussed at her plea hearing.

People need to slow down, Steven Carlson pleaded after Kayls hearing.

Giere said the families have worked with North Heights Lutheran Church located near the crash scene to establish a memorial garden on its campus at 1700 W. Hwy. 96. The garden is open to the public.

I hope that she finds some peace in her life, Giere said of Kayl. It shouldve never happened.

Chao Xiong 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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