Driver pleads guilty in Bellbrook teens’ deaths

XENIA, Ohio (WDTN)- The driver charged in the deaths of three Bellbrook teens admits his guilt Wednesday morning.

Jesse Whitaker, 18, pleaded guilty to all 8 counts; including, three counts of vehicular homicide, three counts of vehicular manslaughter, and two traffic violations.

He pleaded not guilty in October of last year after he was charged.

Whitaker faces up to nine months in the Greene County Juvenile Detention Center, as well as fines, community service and license suspension.

Whitaker was 17-years-old at the time of the deadly crash so he was charged as a juvenile.

Investigators say he was driving a truck on Wagner Road in November 2012 when he lost control and hit a tree, killing three teens – Julianna Hawk, 14, Sophie Kerrigan, 17, and Skylar Kooken, 16.

The three teens were students at Bellbrook High School.

Babb said this tragedy has taken its toll on Whitaker, although not to the extent of the victims’ families, but his life has changed as well.

“Obviously, it’s been traumatic for the families of the lost children, more than anybody else and there’s no kind of pain that can compare to that.  But, it’s also been a very difficult process for him.  I can tell you that he’s never been in my office and not sobbed openly,” says Babb.

Julianna’s aunt Lisa Sikorski tells 2 NEWS she’s thankful that he changed his plea so the victims’ families didn’t have to sit through a trial.

“On one side, I feel that it was very giving of Jesse to be able to plead guilty and not put the families through a trial.  I think that was very generous of him,” comments Sikorski.

She hopes the judge will sentence him to talk about this tragedy in schools, in hopes of saving lives.

“I think community service is fantastic.  I do believe there are some consequences to your actions and I think that he has to pay for some of his actions.  I don’t want to see him suffer.  I know he’s going to suffer for the rest of his life, just like we all are,” explains Sikorski.

The judge will now decide whether to sentence Whitaker or move the case to Franklin County, where he now resides.

 

 

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