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A probation violation hearing was held Thursday for the teen previously charged with manslaughter, assault and texting while driving in connection with a September 2011 fatality collision. Rachel N. Gannon,More >>
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PLATTE CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -
She was given more chances than other defendants in her situation, her attorneys say, because of her age. She was even allowed to return to school in Platte County while still being incarcerated.
But prosecutors said Rachel N. Gannon blew those chances and is now going to prison after a Platte County judge Wednesday decided to revoke her probation and sentenced her to 3 1/2 years in prison.
The victim's family initially sought leniency for Gannon, but repeated problems led to the prison sentence.
Gannon pleaded guilty in May 2012 when she was 17 to second-degree involuntary manslaughter, third-degree assault and violating the Missouri law that prohibits motorists 21 or younger from texting while driving.
The accident killed 72-year-old Loretta Larimer of Camden Point. Gannon told police she was looking at her phone when she lost control of her vehicle.
Larimer's family has been vocal about the crash and the consequences of texting while driving. The crash also injured the Larimers' 10-year-old granddaughter. They asked the prosecutors not to send the teen to jail because they wanted to see her prosper.
"That family of Loretta Larimer showed tremendous mercy and passion asking me to see that she not go to prison for her crimes," Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said.
Gannon had been before a Platte County judge three times asking for leniency and was granted all of those requests except for this last time. A judge initially placed Gannon on five years' probation and ordered her to serve 48 hours of "shock time" in jail, find a job, serve 72 days of house arrest and perform 300 hours of community service.
Last September, something happened that prosecutors and even her defense attorney say they had never seen a court do.
"They granted probation, not only probation, but an SIS, a no conviction probation to an individual who had caused somebody's death. Once again, I don't believe I've seen that in 25 years," said Mark Ferguson, Gannon's attorney.
Authorities say she violated that parole.
Less than a month later, Gannon held a teen drinking party and admitted herself to being drunk. She also left her home, quit her job and moved in with her 21-year-old boyfriend - all violations of her conditions.
"She was still immature, she was still a kid," Ferguson said.
Gannon was sentenced to one year in jail, but allowed to go to school, to attend a tutoring program and report back to jail no later than 30 minutes after.
"[She was] given the permission to continue her education and return directly after, the courts learned she had skipped that program on multiple occasions," Zahnd said.
Prosecutors say Gannon skipped 31 of those scheduled tutorials and was seen hanging out at a Dairy Queen after school.
On Wednesday, she was given no more chances and sentenced to the Missouri Department of Corrections and her probation revoked.
Still, the victim's family feels this is a loss.
"From the beginning, Judge [Abe] Schaffer and the court they were very lenient and I mean we wanted Rachel to succeed. We wanted something good to come out of this," said John Larimer, the victim's son. "Something good coming out of this would have been, would have been Rachel moving on being successful."
Gannon's defense attorneys say Gannon was just being a typical teen and argued over a few of the skipped tutoring dates.
Her mother testified that she brought her grades up from Fs to As, and her sister said they were just grabbing something to eat after school because dinner time at the jail was over.
Gannon is now a convicted felon of involuntary manslaughter. She had spent the last nine months in the Platte County Jail, but prosecutors said that time doesn't count. She will begin her three years starting Wednesday and could be eligible for parole in six months.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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