Depressed teen, fatal crash and fair punishment — a reader conversation

Sunday , October 29, 2017 - 3:35 PM

ANNE CHRISTNOVICH, Standard-Examiner Staff

In the early morning of June 30, 2016, an SUV slammed into a Hyundai Sonata near 6000 South and 3500 West in Roy. The SUV was pushing 100 mph at the time of the crash. 

The two people in the Sonata were killed — 20-year-old Maddison “Madi” Haan of West Point died at the scene and 19-year-old Tyler Christianson of Ogden died at a nearby hospital. 

The driver of the SUV, later identified Marilee Patricia Gardner, attempted to speed away, steering the vehicle through several yards before stopping in a field. She was 16 years old at the time of the crash. 

Before tragedy could fully set in for the victims’ loved ones, police interviews with the teen revealed she was on her way to meet a friend — the two planned to take drugs and intentionally crash the car in a suicide attempt.

Gardner was subsequently charged with two counts of murder, which are first-degree felonies; one count of failing to stop at the command of police, a third-degree felony; and one count of failure to remain at an accident involving death, a third-degree felony. 

Initially, prosecutors decided to try Gardner as an adult, with a life sentence as a possible outcome for her actions. 

But Gardner took a plea deal in August, crafted by the Weber County Attorney’s Office. In exchange for guilty pleas, both murder counts were dropped to attempted murder, with one charge entered in juvenile court and the other entered in the adult system. The now-17-year-old entered a guilty plea in juvenile court earlier this week, which means she’ll be in juvenile commitment until she’s 21. 

Next, she’ll face the second attempted murder charge Nov. 15 in adult court, where she’s expected to plead guilty. That charge will result in a minimum sentence of three years in adult prison — the maximum sentence is a life term. 

“This deal will essentially ensure that when she’s done doing time in the juvenile system, she will go into prison as an adult,” Weber County Attorney Chris Allred told the Standard-Examiner in August. “It will be up to the Board of of Pardons and Parole to determine how long her prison term is.”

Gardner gave a brief statement in juvenile court Wednesday, noticeably fighting back tears.

“I know it doesn’t change anything, but I am truly sorry,” Gardner said.

Several family members of Haan and Christianson gave statements — all of them void of sympathy for Gardner. 

Here’s how readers responded to the story of her guilty plea when we shared it on Facebook. All quotes are verbatim:

Kayla Jo Udy: Just so everyone knows, she’s staying in the juvenile system so she can get therapy and the things she needs to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. I mean you wouldn’t want it to happen again would you? So before you assume don’t talk.

Mitch Parker: Wtf attempted murder? She killed two innocent people. This is crap

Danny Chadwick: This is a shame. She should be able to go free after her time in juvie.

Angela Cuillard: I am sure the people defending her would feel different if it was their children that she killed

Jennifer Serrano Mikkelsen Sinatra: She’s a kid who made a foolish choice and is sorry. Obviously she was depressed.

Meli Delatorre: The fact that people think someone who took the life of 2 people only deserves ‘therapy’. She needs therapy & a lot of time behind bars.

Kathleen Smith Holdaway: I’m glad she’s getting therapy, but I don’t know that’s any solace to the parents of those kids.

Sara Mangum: Sorry but this isn’t attempted murder this is murder. She killed two people.

Tessa Maes-Steens: This system is so jacked up that’s why people take matters into their own hands its a sick sad world

Jandi Wayment: I have a hard time with this case cause I have a hard time with both sides. But just curious what your idea of punishment for killing 2 innocent kids is.

Micaela Rose Ulshafer: She deserves prison. she killed two kids. I don’t feel bad. She should be held accountable for her actions. 16 or not.

Chantel Eggett: Gotta Love plea deals

Shannon Misch: I don’t get why she gets to stay in juvenile detention until she is 21. At 18 you are an adult. Why protect her? This is bs. She wanted to die lock her up where she can learn a lesson.

Amy Terflinger: She ran into that car on purpose trying to kill herself. It wasn’t an accident.

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