SANDPOINT — Mercy was shown Wednesday in the case of a Cocolalla woman who accidentally killed one daughter and injured another in a single-vehicle crash last fall.
Idaho State Police said Brittney Danielle Bullock was westbound on Bayview Road when she skidded over logging slash on the roadside and lost control of her 1998 Honda Accord. The car crashed into a stand of trees.
“The force of the impact split the car open,” Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Hanlon explained to Judge Debra Heise during Bullock’s sentencing hearing.
Bullock’s 6-year-old daughter was thrown from the wreckage and fatally injured. Bullock’s 11-year-old daughter was injured in the collision.
Bullock, 29, was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and injury to a child. The state attributed the Sept. 6, 2016, collision to an array of factors including excessive speed, overly worn tires and inattention. Neither of the children were in safety restraints at the time of the crash, according to court documents.
Drugs and alcohol were ruled out as factors in the crash.
Bullock entered into a plea agreement which dismissed the child injury charge in exchange for a plea to the manslaughter charge. Bullock entered an Alford plea, meaning she admits no culpability for the offense but concedes that the state could win a conviction if the case went before a jury.
The agreement recommended a 180-day jail sentence with 150 days suspended. The pact also allowed the defense to argue that the 30-day remainder of the sentence be served on weekends or converted to hours of service on the sheriff’s labor detail.
Bullock’s counsel, Deputy Public Defender Luke Hagelberg argued against incarcerating the single, working mother who was picking up clothes for her kids’ first day of school when the crash occurred. Hagelberg said Bullock has suffered enough.
“Quite frankly, I can think of nothing worse than a parent losing their own child by their own hand,” said Hagelberg. “She’s living a nightmare — every parent’s nightmare.”
Hanlon did not object to the defense recommendations and acknowledged that Bullock was also a victim in the case. Attempts to contact the child’s father were not successful.
A tearful Bullock had no remarks for the court on Wednesday.
Heise agreed to adopt the terms of the plea agreement and noted that Bullock was in a harried situation every parent has experienced. Heise offered condolences and said descriptions of the crash as a “tragedy” and “nightmare” were apt.
Heise, however, said Bullock still had to be held accountable for the crash.
“The aspect of sentencing here would be the deterrent part to encourage other parents to be mindful when they’re driving with their children in the car,” Heise added.
Heise converted the 30-day remainder to 240 hours of labor and imposed a $1,000 fine with $800 suspended due to Bullock’s financial situation. The remainder of the fine was imposed to cover court costs in the case.
Bullock was also placed on probation for two years and her driving privileges were restricted for one year.