OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – A 17-year-old pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the death of two young people.
Marilee Gardner admitted to the crime in juvenile court and was sentenced to juvenile detention. In tears she apologized to both families and said the following:
“That night I wasn’t thinking clearly,” Gardner said. “My goal was to kill myself. Instead I caused the deaths of Madi Haan and Tyler Christianson. I am truly sorry. I know saying sorry doesn’t change anything, but I am sorry and I will do all in my power to make amends.”
Juvenile Judge Sherene Dillon recommended Gardner be confined to a juvenile detention facility until she turns 21 years old. But she said it will be up to the Youth Board of Pardons to make the final decision on how long she will serve.
Last year, she rear-ended a vehicle stopped at an intersection in Roy. Madi Haan and Tyler Christianson were in the vehicle and both died on impact.
“It’s devastating,” said her attorney Tara Isaacson. “Once she realized what she did and had caused, she was devastated. “It’s difficult to come to terms as she said in her statements. She understands these families won’t have their children back again.”
In the courtroom, there was anger, sadness even guilt, coming from the victim’s families.
“For myself, I feel like a total failure,” said Tyler’s grandfather Dennis Christianson. “I could not protect Tyler and I failed in my beliefs to God. At this time I cannot forgive you Marilee. You do not show any signs of remorse.”
As part of the plea bargain, Gardner was certified as an adult and was charged with a single count of attempted murder. The agreement which was discussed in court Wednesday requires her to plead guilty to that charge. The Weber County attorney plans on filing the first degree felony charge soon in adult court and Gardner will have to appear to make her guilty plea official.
Haan’s mother accepted the punishment, knowing there’s prison time ahead. But she said it doesn’t ease the pain.
“It’s a big empty space in our house,” said Jocelyn Castillo. “Because she was with us all the time. We were doing it all together. We were making it. But it’s hard to keep going without her.”
In the adult charge she faces a three years to life sentence. But Gardner will not be sentenced until she completes her juvenile sentence.
In 2016, Gardner took her family car without permission and eluded a Roy police officer who attempted to stop her. She then crashed into the back end of a vehicle which had stopped at an intersection waiting for the green light.
The driver of the vehicle, Madi Haan and her friend Tyler Christianson died at the scene.