Mother receives maximum sentence in fatal Silver Springs accident
YERINGTON — A Silver Springs mother was sentenced Wednesday to up to 40 years in prison for a Lyon County car crash that claimed the lives of two children and injured seven others.
“I’m sorry seems like such a small word,” said Kim Kautz, 32, dissolving into tears. “I did love Dani and Jennifer.”
Dani Jo Baker, 10, died at the scene. Her cousin Jennifer O’Brien, 15, was taken off life-support Aug. 17, four days after the Aug. 13 accident in which Kautz’s pickup truck rolled on Highway 95A in Silver Springs. The group was returning from a day at Lake Lahontan.
The children were ejected from the truck.
Six others — Dakota Baker, 12; Destiny Baker, 14; Randi “Missy” Beal, 15; Shaelyn Keep, 2; Cody Keep, 12; and Clinton Craiglowe, 12 — were released five days later from the hospital with various broken bones and scrapes.
Kautz’s son, Zachary Saylor, 11, suffered a broken elbow, kidney and spleen damage, massive head trauma, brain injury and temporary paralysis on his left side. He spent a month in the hospital and has since gone to live with his father in Oregon.
The Baker, Beal and Keep children are first cousins. Their three mothers are sisters.
Kautz pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death while driving under the influence of a prohibitive substance. In the plea agreement, the Lyon County District Attorney’s Office dropped four identical charges.
The prosecution contends Kautz drank at least six Smirnoff Ices — a vodka-based drink — while at Lahontan then got behind the wheel of her pickup, carrying seven of the children in the bed of the truck.
Kautz told the judge Wednesday she hadn’t smoked marijuana — on which the charges were based — for at least a week prior to the accident.
She said she began smoking marijuana years before to “self-medicate” for bipolar disorder.
“I only drank one Smirnoff and part of another because it spilled,” she read from a written statement.
She said she, Dani Jo and Shaelyn were singing the “ABC” song in the cab of the truck when she saw something black in the roadway.
Kautz contends she had a blowout.
Kautz had five times the legal limit of marijuana in her system, “indicative with recent use,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Rye told District Judge Archie Blake.
“The alcohol with the marijuana was a recipe for disaster,” Rye said.
He said an investigation revealed there was no blowout that caused the accident, and that the children told police Kautz was purposely swerving in the roadway as they begged her to stop.
Kautz received two sentences of 20 years in prison. She must serve at least eight years before applying for parole. Once she’s paroled or has served all 20 years, she will begin to serve the second sentence of eight to 20 years. The least she will serve is 16 years; the most, 40 years.
Blake also ordered Kautz to pay $8,000 in restitution and $4,000 in fines.
Mary Baker read a poem she wrote a few days after her daughter, Dani Jo, was killed.
Baker told the judge Dani Jo’s struggles began the day she was born four months early and weighing a little more than 1 pound.
“That baby fought every day,” she said of her blonde daughter, who suffered from cerebral palsy and used a walker.
Baker, now six months pregnant, said when she found out shortly after her daughter’s death that she was pregnant, she didn’t want another child because she would feel like she was replacing Dani Jo.
“But that baby was one in a million. She can’t be replaced,” she said of Dani Jo.
Jennifer O’Brien’s mother and Baker’s sister, Tina Keep, said only two sentences, choked by tears, directly to Kautz.
“May God have mercy on your soul. Nothing I say will bring (Jennifer) back.”
Kautz’s ex-husband, Larry Saylor, testified his son Zachary has nearly recovered from his physical injuries, but is still battling with the accident emotionally.
“Zach will always have to deal with the stigma that his mother is a murderer,” Saylor said. “He will have to look every day at these scars caused by his mother’s criminal acts.”
He said Zach still has limited mobility in his elbow.
Rye said the fact that Kautz has no prior criminal record and was active in the community should have no bearing on the sentencing.
“(That) cannot outweigh the deaths of two children,” he said.
“In my 15 years on the bench, this is certainly one of — if not the — most tragic incidents and result of impaired driving I have ever seen,” said Blake.