Arizona Couple Pleads Guilty to Floodwater Drive That Killed 3 Children

by Samantha Whidden
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An Arizona couple has reportedly struck a plea deal for their 2019 drive through floodwater that killed three children.

According to AP News, Daniel and Lacy Rawlings were hit with the charges after they ignored barricades and attempted to plow a military-style truck over the Tonto Creek near the New Mexico border. The Creek was notably flooded due to heavy rains on November 20, 2019. Rescue crews had to save the couple and seven children stuck in the high waters.

Unfortunately, floodwaters washed away the truck. Two of their children 6-year-old daughter, Willa, 5-year-old son, Colby, and 5-year-old niece, Austin, were trapped in the truck when it was washed away. They drowned in the floodwaters. Authorities found the bodies of Colby and Austin the next day. Meanwhile, authorities recovered Willa’s body 20 miles away from where she originally went missing. 

The Arizona Couple’s Plea Deal For Flood Incident

Daniel, who was the alleged driver in the flood incident, will plead guilty to three counts of manslaughter and seven counts of child abuse. Meanwhile, Lacey will plead to child abuse charges. This will be one count for every child in the vehicle at the time. As part of her plea deal, Lacey will be on supervised probation for four years.

The couple’s original trial date is in March 2022 at Gila County Superior Court. They would have faced mandatory time behind bars if guilty. Now, the judge plans to sentence the couple on January 27, 2022.

Daniel Rawlings’ attorney, Bruce Griffen, told reporters that the Rawlings were willing to forego the trial in the flood incident. This was due to plea negotiations with prosecutors leading to the possibility they could be sentenced to probation. “They have surviving children that they are responsible for. So their eggs are all in one basket. Hoping they can stay on a probationary disposition. So they can be there for their children.” 

Children Killed in Flood Water Sparked $21 Million Federal Grant to Gila County 

Following the flood incident involving the Rawlings, Gila County received a $21 million federal grant in order to build a bridge over Tonto. AP News reports that eight people have died while trying to cross the creek during flood since 1995. 

Gila County’s District 2 Supervisor, Tim Humphrey, who currently represents Tonto Basin, said that since he has been in office, he has traveled to Washington D.C. to push for funding of the Tonto Creek Bridge. “Successful approval of our grant application shows the value of the efforts we’ve been making for years. [This is] to educate Arizona’s congressional delegation about how essential this project is. this will save lives and help create infrastructure.”

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