Girl accused of manslaughter pleads guilty

The 15-year-old Chico girl accused of killing 15-year-old Kristina Priano after crashing the stolen car she was driving into the Priano family’s minivan appeared in court Feb. 14, and it was clear from watching her there that she is still very much a child.

The girl, whose name is not being used because she is a minor, pleaded guilty to three serious charges: vehicle theft, evading a police officer causing injury, and vehicular manslaughter. She faces up to 11 years in California Youth Authority custody but didn’t seem concerned about that—at least in court.

The slim, blonde girl, her hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing leg chains and handcuffs chained to a belt around her waist, wore a cast on her leg—a result of the broken ankle she suffered in the accident. She smiled and laughed with her younger sister, who was seated across from her in the small juvenile courtroom, and giggled when Judge Barbara Roberts misspoke her last name.

She spoke only to confirm to Roberts that she understood what pleading guilty meant. Her parents, who sat with her sister across from her, appeared tired and listless, their eyes lined with deep circles.

Her attorney, Ron Reed, said that the girl decided to plead guilty to the charges “because she is a good girl with a good heart and feels bad about what happened. She wanted to take responsibility for her actions.”

District Attorney Mike Ramsey said that the girl had no prior record in Butte County. He explained that she was “having some trouble at home” when she planned with a 15-year-old friend to steal her mother’s small Toyota SUV and run away to Sacramento. When her mother noticed the car missing about two hours after the girls took it, she notified Chico police, who saw the car driving slowly through the Vecino neighborhood of Chico.

Several times during the ensuing slow-speed chase through the residential area, the girl appeared ready to pull over, and in fact flashed her turn signal and slowed down as if she was about to stop, said police Capt. Mike Maloney. Then she suddenly sped up to about 45 mph at the intersection of Palm and East Fifth avenues, broadsiding the Priano minivan.

The family was on its way to Kristina’s varsity basketball game. The 15-year-old Champion Christian School student suffered major head trauma, slipped into a coma and died a week later, on Jan. 28.

A sentencing hearing will be held March 13, Ramsey said. The girl will be kept at Juvenile Hall until then.