Teen pleads no contest in fatal crash

Saying she had no memory of the July 2004 traffic accident that caused the death of a classmate, 17-year-old Marissa Bemiss of Minden pleaded no contest to reckless driving causing death.

"I cannot possibly express how very sorry I am for the tragic events," Bemiss said in a statement she read Tuesday to John and Patti Snyder, the parents of 16-year-old Nicole Snyder who died in the accident on Highway 395 at Genoa Lane.

"Because of the injuries I received, I cannot speak from memory," she said, "but I take full responsibility."

Prosecutor Kris Brown said evidence and witness statements would show the car Bemiss was driving was traveling more than 80 mph in a 65-mph zone around noon on July 12, 2004.

Brown said the Bemiss car was traveling at such a high speed, a witness in another vehicle said she instinctively reached for her cell phone to report a reckless driver but didn't have time before the accident occurred.

Bemiss and her passengers were traveling north, returning from summer school, and Snyder was on the way to her Gardnerville Ranchos home from work.

The Bemiss car passed other vehicles, changed lanes, overcorrected and crossed the center median into the path of Snyder's car, which was traveling south.

Snyder was killed instantly. Bemiss and two passengers in her car were injured.

Originally, Bemiss denied the petition that her actions caused Snyder's death. Her lawyer, Fred Pinkerton of Reno, said his client changed her plea because she believed that if the case had gone to a hearing in juvenile court, there was more than sufficient evidence to support the petition.

Gamble set disposition for April 19 at 10:30 a.m.

In juvenile court proceedings, admission or denial is equivalent to a plea in adult court. A no-contest plea is the same as an admission of guilt when it comes to sentencing.

Gamble told Bemiss she could face confinement in girls' detention facilities at Aurora Pines in Douglas County or Caliente in Southern Nevada. He praised her for her apology.

"It's a tragic occurrence in our community," Gamble said. "I want to thank you for your words and hope those who have been damaged will take those words to heart."

The courtroom was crowded with supporters for both girls. Snyders' parents wept during Bemiss' apology.

Following the hearing, both sets of parents shook hands and John Snyder thanked his daughter's friends and families for attending.

"Patti and I are glad she is accepting responsibility for the accident," Snyder said. "After reading the police report, we know it was very reckless driving. We know it was an accident. It was tragic.

"We're not looking for anything harsh to punish Marissa. We hope that maybe she'll be required to speak to other teenagers.

"Nothing is going to bring Nicole back. We hope for some good to come out of this to send the right signal to other teenagers."

n Contact reporter Sheila Gardner at sgardner@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 214.


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