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Utah man pleads guilty to killing boy in Christmas crash

Published July 19, 2013 7:16 pm

Courts • Thomas Ainsworth, high on meth and THC, reached for cell phone and slammed into family's car.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Moments after Thomas Ainsworth pleaded guilty Friday to causing a crash that killed a toddler and injured the little boy's parents, he turned to the family, looked them in the eyes and apologized.

It was the first time the Pack family had seen the 56-year-old man express responsibility and remorse for his actions on that night more than a year and a half ago.

Thomas Ainsworth faces up to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for each of the three felonies to which he pleaded — three counts of negligent driving that caused injury or death. In exchange for his admission of guilt, prosecutors dropped two misdemeanor charges of crossing a highway divider and driving without insurance.

He will be sentenced in 3rd District Court in late September.

"We're still struggling every day," said Ryan Pack, the father of 18-month-old Colum Pack who died in the collision on Christmas Eve 2011. "It doesn't make that easier, but it was good to hear him say sorry."

According to prosecutors, Ainsworth was driving his Chevrolet Suburban west on 9000 South on Dec. 24, 2011, while high on methamphetamine and THC. He dropped his cellphone, went to reach for it and lost control of his vehicle.

The Suburban jumped the center median near 1000 West and clipped an oncoming Nissan Altima. Seconds later, the SUV hit an oncoming Subaru Outback head-on, killing Colum and severely injuring his 3-year-old brother, Finn, and their parents, Ryan and Raquel Pack.

Ainsworth, who appeared before Judge Deno Himonas in a wheelchair, also was injured in the collision.

On Friday, as the judge outlined the details of his plea agreement, Ainsworth rocked the wheelchair back and forth.

"I am guilty, sir," Ainsworth said to the judge. "And to the Pack family, I am so, so sorry."

He looked over at the mother and father as bailiffs wheeled him out of the courtroom, his long, white beard framing the contours of his mouth and crinkles of his eyes as he searched theirs.

Had they forgiven him?

"We're trying," Raquel Pack said after. "We're glad he finally accepted responsibility."

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae