SALT LAKE CITY — If a U.S. District Court judge could have, he would have sentenced Bugman Pest and Lawn Inc., to jail Friday for its role in the deaths of two young Layton girls.
Instead, all Judge Dee Benson said he could do was fine the business $3,000 and keep the business shut down for three years.
Company president Ray Wilson “puts all the blame” on Coleman Nocks for the deaths of Rebecca Toone, 5, and her sister, Rachel Toone, 15 months old, Benson said during a sentencing hearing.
Benson sentenced Nocks, 64, to three years’ probation.
Wilson, on behalf of the company, and Nocks, on his own behalf, each pleaded guilty in October to one count of unlawful use of a registered pesticide, a class A misdemeanor.
“There is no question in my mind this incident was not done intentionally but was extreme negligence,” Benson said of Nocks’ actions.
Benson said from the reports he has read concerning Nocks, the Bountiful man has taken responsibility for his actions and is “truly remorseful.”
The recommended sentence for Nocks was six months in a halfway house with work release and then six months of home confinement, as well as probation.
But the judge chose to sentence Nocks to straight probation.
Wilson spoke to the judge before his sentence and said the company had a clean record for years with the Department of Agriculture and that the company had monthly training safety meetings.
“We have never suggested to any employee or technician that it was OK to ignore warnings on labels,” Wilson said.
Nocks read a statement in court before he was sentenced, acknowledging he was responsible for the deaths of the two Layton girls on Feb. 5, 2010, after he misused Fumitoxin, a pesticide containing aluminum phosphide.
“A thorough investigation revealed that I am responsible for the hurt and loss caused to the Toone family,” Nocks said.
Nocks also said he knows the time will come when he will have to “face God and let him know I’m responsible for the deaths of two innocent children.”
The parents of the girls, Brenda and Nathan Toone, hired the company to rid their yard of rodents.
As the two stood before the judge Friday, Nathan Toone read a statement on how their lives have changed. As they spoke, family and friends sitting in the gallery wept.
“Nearly two years have passed since we invited Mr. Nocks, a pesticide professional, to eliminate a health hazard at our home,” Nathan Toone said.
“Mr. Nocks’ tragic ignorance, laziness and carelessness for the lives of others created a far more deadly hazard, a hazard which took the lives of our two sweet girls.”
Nathan Toone said they know the deaths of their daughters were not intentional and “we have feelings of compassion toward Mr. Nocks, for we know this is a terrible burden for him to bear.”
The Toone family issued a statement after the hearing concerning the sentence.
They wrote in it that they wish Benson had imposed the recommended sentence, but they agreed with the judge’s assessment of Nocks’ remorse and sorrow.
They accept Nocks’ “apologies, wish the best for him and forgive him for his actions,” according to the Toone statement.
“We also fully agree with Judge Benson’s statements concerning Mr. Wilson’s lack of similar remorse and sorrow.”
Nathan Toone said their religious faith has helped them, but they will never get over what happened.
“We will get through it, but never over it.”