Guilty pleas from pesticide planters

Oct 11 2011 - 7:17pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Nathan and Brenda Toone held hands while the president of a pesticide company and his former employee entered guilty pleas to charges related to the deaths of their daughters, Rebecca, 5, and Rachel, 15 months old.

The Layton couple left the U.S. District Court without making a comment following the guilty pleas entered by Coleman Nocks, 64, of Bountiful, and Ray Wilson, president of Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc., on Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Samuel Alba.

Nocks, on his own behalf, and Wilson, on behalf of the company, each entered a guilty plea to one count of unlawful use of a registered pesticide, a class A misdemeanor.

The U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to drop two other charges, not related to the girls' deaths, in exchange for the guilty plea.

A sentencing hearing for both is set for Dec. 20 before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. Nocks could be sentenced to serve six months in jail and six months of home confinement, plus be put on probation. He also faces a fine of up to $100,000. Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc., could be shut down for at least three years, plus face a fine of up to $625,000.

"We feel sorry for what happened to the Toone family," Wilson said after the hearing. "We hope as a result of the plea settlement that they will be able to put this behind them and move forward."

Wilson's attorney, Dennis R. James, said a tentative settlement, which will not be made public when it is finalized, has been reached in a wrongful death suit filed by the Toone's in 2nd District Court.

Nocks admitted in his guilty plea to the misuse of Fumitoxin, a pesticide used to exterminate cigarette weevils in tobacco and all kinds of pests, including rodents in grain crops. The pesticide's active ingredient is aluminum phosphide and is restricted in its use by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was the second time Nocks, who has since given up his pesticide license, had been to the Toone home to deal with field mice, officials said.

The girls died three days apart following exposure to the pesticide. The medical examiner's reports indicated the two girls had "elevated phosphorous levels and lung damage consistent with inhaling a harmful substance."

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