FILLMORE, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Sandy woman who pleaded guilty to three counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of a North Carolina father, mother and son last year was sentenced to 24 months probation in a Millard County courtroom Wednesday.
In an emotional day in court, Judge Anthony Howell told Jennifer Diamond, 43, that he did not believe she was a bad person.
“I know you’re sorry,” said Howell. Attorneys representing the victims, though, wanted a harsher punishment which included consecutive sentencing. There were several in the courtroom representing the Bova family who wanted Diamond to serve jail time.
“I don’t deserve to be forgiven,” Diamond told the judge. “I don’t know that I will ever forgive myself. This is something I will carry for the rest of my life.”
Diamond pleaded down to three counts negligent homicide last June in the deaths of Tyrone and Holly Bova of Archdale, North Carolina and their 11-year-old son Haden. Their 18-year-old son, Tyler, survived the June 18, 2018 crash. The family was visiting Utah last summer when police said Diamond was driving recklessly on Highway 50 eastbound near Scipio, crashing head-on into the family’s vehicle. Diamond’s 9-year-old daughter was also severely injured.
Investigators said Diamond’s dogs were distracting her in the vehicle and that she was illegally passing another driver and on the wrong side of the road when she crashed into the Bova family’s vehicle.
Prosecutors pointed to Diamond’s multiple speeding tickets to show a history of reckless driving. In a video played for the court, Tyler Bova, who also was present inside the courtroom, recounted his multiple injuries to his brain, abdomen and legs.
“I have trouble walking because my legs are still weak laying in the bed for three weeks straight on a ventilator,” said Bova, who was 17 at the time of the crash that claimed his entire family.
Bova underwent months of treatments and has not yet fully recovered from his injuries. Prosecutors said it’s likely he will deal with a traumatic brain injury for the rest of his life.
Several supporters of the Bova family in the audience scoffed at Diamond’s in-court apology, wondering why she had not repented to the family until now. Attorneys also argued she should be given a harsher sentence because she had made no effort to reach out to the Bova family and offer an apology.
Judge Anthony Howell became impatient with attorneys representing the Bova family for suggesting that Diamond wasn’t remorseful, pointing to a long-standing court rule that defendants stay out of contact with victims in these types of cases.
“That none of you have heard from Ms. Diamond until today is not an indication that she does not have remorse,” Howell said.
“We wanted to reach out to [Tyler],” Diamond told the court. “I will punish myself every minute of the day.”
Later, in a surprising turn, Judge Howell called Tyler Bova up to the podium, asking him what sentence he would like. Bova said he just wanted financial restitution, and the judge said that conversation would come later.
Judge Howell also became emotional, praising Bova for his fortitude during the ordeal.
“I don’t want anybody else to get hurt…like my family was and me,” the 18-year-old told the judge. “But I don’t really care if she went to jail or not…I just want everyone else to be safe.”
The judge ordered probation for Diamond and that she participate in 100 hours of safe-driving initiatives, given her driving history. Her license is still suspended until the Utah Driver License Division deems otherwise.
Diamond’s husband and parents were also present in the courtroom. Judge Howell called Diamond’s case the “worst case scenario” of what happens when people drive recklessly.