On Mar. 19th, 2009, a cold winter night in Montana, a 4-month pregnant mother by the name of Erin Thompson was driving down the highway with her 13-year-old son, Caden Vincent Odell. They were on their way home after Caden’s jazz-band performance at his school. As Erin was crossing over a bridge, a car came barreling down from the opposite direction. The driver of the car from the other side was Justine Winter, a 16-year-old girl whom had just left her boyfriend’s (Ryan) house after a fight over him finding out about Justine’s diary entry on an ex-boyfriend. As Justine was driving back home, she kept on texting Ryan, and the messages between them soon began to spiral out of control, with messages from Justine to Ryan such as the following:
“If I won I would have you, and I wouldn’t crash my car.”
“Thats why I am going to wreck my car. …because i am a terrible person. … i want to kill mysself [sic]. good bye ryan. I love you.”
“It’s ending. bye ryan.”
As Justine kept driving down the highway, her car reached the speed of 137km/h (85mph), and not long after the above messages, her car hit Erin’s car that was coming from the other side at a mere speed of 50km/h (31mph).
Justine, who survived the head-on collision, was indicted as an adult, with two counts of deliberate homicide. It was deemed by the prosecutor that her failed suicide attempt had caused the death of Erin and Caden. Justine suffered multiple injuries and brain damage from the crash, and she later on claimed that she had no memories of the incident. Before the trial had even started, Justine’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Erin’s husband, blaming Erin for the accident that had caused Justine’s injuries. Understandably, the lawsuit caused nothing less than a wave of outrage among the general public. Completely denying any responsibility, Justine’s defense team argued in the ensuing trial that Erin was the one that had caused the car collision by swerving into the wrong lane, and that Justine’s text messages to Ryan was a mere discussion with dramatic flares between two teenagers. Justine’s family also testified on her behalf, testifying that Justine was a popular, outgoing, and straight-A model student who was not known for being into any kind of drugs or alcohol, and would have had no reason to commit suicide. Confident of Justine’s innocence, her defense team and family decided to turn down the offer from the prosecutor for a much lesser sentence.
In the end, the jury convicted Justine of two counts of deliberate homicide. Before the judge handed down the sentence, Erin’s family members were given the chance to speak to Justine. While speaking to Justine, several of Erin’s loved ones openly questioned Justine’s seemingly lack of remorse or guilt over the incident. Even before the judge finally handed down the sentence, the prosecutor gave her a second chance to publicly apologize to Erin’s family for having caused the death of Erin and Caden. Justine was firm in that she was only able to say that she was sorry for their loss, but not for having caused the death of Erin and Caden. The judge sentenced Erin to two 30-year sentences to be run concurrently, with 15 years suspended for each of the sentences.