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Utah driver sentenced to jail for West Valley City stroller death

Published March 31, 2014 12:18 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The boy who was killed when Kimberly Munoz crashed her car into a stroller in the middle of a West Valley City street last year was the same age as her own son.

He was bright and happy and could say words like "mama" and "sissy."

He died at Primary Children's Hospital as a result of injuries he suffered in the crash.

Munoz, who was sentenced Monday for fleeing the scene of the accident, wept as she spoke of her own child and apologized to the mother of Gavyn Barnett.

"I want everybody to know I do feel pain and I accept responsibility for what happened," Munoz said. "I hope one day, the family can forgive me for what happened. I was scared. ... I am sorry from the bottom of my heart."

Munoz was sentenced to 88 days of jail time and three years of probation for fleeing the scene of the collision on the night of June 10.

Although Gavyn's mother characterized the penalty as a slap on the wrist, it was more jail time than prosecutors felt was necessary.

Salt Lake County prosecutor Sandi Johnson recommended the 21-year-old woman serve only probation — but Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills ordered Munoz spend a month in jail, in addition to the 58 days she has already served.

Munoz was immediately handcuffed and led from court Monday, as her mother and father left the sentencing in tears.

Defense attorney Bel-Ami de Montreux said it could have been worse.

"She was facing up to five years in prison; she can do 30 days in jail," de Montreux said. "The bottom line here is she was not charged with the death of this child. The child was in a place where a child should not have been at 10 p.m. in the dark where there was no crosswalk. That was not her fault."

But Angela Barnett, the mother who lost her son on that June night, said 30 days in jail isn't nearly enough.

"It seems like I'm getting more punishment than her. ... I made a mistake crossing where I did, but I didn't deserve to lose my little boy," Barnett said. "When she hit my son, that's how he died. He didn't just do it on his own. How was she not charged with his death?"

Munoz, of West Valley City, was originally charged in 3rd District Court with third-degree felony leaving the scene of an accident involving death and three misdemeanors that allege she was driving without valid insurance, wasn't wearing her eyeglasses and had illegal tinting on her windshield.

In January, Munoz pleaded guilty to one charge of causing an accident involving property damage, a third-degree felony. The remaining charges were dismissed.

According to court documents, Angela Barnett was crossing 5600 West and 4005 South in West Valley City on June 10 about 9:15 p.m., with her 9-year-old daughter by her side and her son, Gavyn, in a stroller.

The area was poorly lit, and there was no crosswalk, according to police. As the mother moved toward the sidewalk with her children, a car crashed into the stroller.

The impact sent the stroller — and the child inside it — flying into the road. Gavyn Barnett later died from his injuries.

The car stopped briefly before continuing on, the mother told police.

The case went unsolved for months.

Eventually, police received a tip from family members of Munoz's ex-boyfriend, who told police that she was responsible for the crash.

Munoz told detectives that she had forgotten to wear her glasses that night — black-rimmed spectacles that she donned Monday in court.

The road was dark and she "couldn't see very well," according to court documents. She hadn't noticed anyone crossing the street.

"My client's mistake and only mistake was leaving the scene behind and not going back," de Montreux has said. "She was very young, she panicked, and she went away. We want to emphasize our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the child that passed away, and we are in no way blaming the mother. It was poor judgment — almost no one could have avoided hitting that stroller."

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae