Woman pleads no contest in 2013 automobile homicide case

ST. GEORGE – A woman accused of causing the death of one person and severely injuring another in an alleged texting-and-driving incident in 2013 pleaded no contest in court Monday afternoon.

Carla Lynn Brennan, 52, arrived in 5th District Court shortly after 1 p.m. in the courtroom of Judge G. Michael Westfall. Once there, she joined attorney Edward Flint at a table and he went over the terms of a plea deal. Brennan was quiet and emotional as she reviewed the plea agreement with Flint. More then once she reached for nearby tissues on the table while crying.

The fatal crash

Carla Lynn Brennan, booking photo from March 2013 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, St. George News
Carla Lynn Brennan, booking photo from March 2013 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

On the morning of March 4, 2013, Brennan was late to work and speeding down Dixie Drive from her home in the Dixie Downs area, Flint said. Was she driving distracted? Yes, Flint said, but distracted by the fact she was late for work and not because she was texting on a phone as the prosecution alleges.

According to the defense’s evidence, Brennan had sent a text message from her phone just two minutes prior to the fatal accident that took place on Dixie Drive.

While Brennan was driving an estimated 63 mph down Dixie Drive – which has a posted 40 mph speed limit – David and Leslee Henson were taking a morning walk across the bridge that crosses the Santa Clara River near the Sunbrook golf course. Brennan did not notice the vehicle in front of her in time, driven by Frederick Konrath, and rear-ended him. The impact sent Konrath’s vehicle onto the sidewalk where it hit the Hensons.

David Henson was killed while Leslee Henson was left with severe injuries that she has since recovered from.

In the wake of the tragic event, the Henson family started an anti-texting while driving initiative that ultimately went statewide and led to the passage of a strict anti-texting/distracted driving law that took effect in 2014.

A witness told police he believed he saw Brennan texting on her phone prior to the crash, which led to her being charged with second-degree felony automobile homicide, which carries a zero-to-15 year prison term. Brennan has maintained throughout the unfolding investigation and court process that she was not texting.

“She’s adamant she was not texting and driving,” Flint said.

The plea agreement

Leslee Hensen (left) and her daughter Haley Warner (right), St. George, Utah, July 25, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Leslee Hensen (left) and her daughter Haley Warner (right), at a public event related to the family’s anti-texting campaign St. George, Utah, July 25, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Brennan nonetheless acknowledges the state possibly has enough evidence to convict her if the case went to trial, Flint said, so she went with the no contest plea.

Brennan pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of negligent automobile homicide, a third-degree felony.

The state agreed not the recommend prison, and under a state law, Westfall agreed to give Brennan probation, which will likely be for a period of 36 months.

A pre-sentencing investigation will be conducted by the office of Adult Probation and Parole, with sentencing recommendations to be made at a sentencing hearing set for Sept. 2.

Brennan will also pay restitution in the amount of $216,000. That amount derives from a default judgment in a lawsuit filed against Brennan by the Henson’s insurance company. Brennan was not insured at the time of the crash.

While Flint said he wants to keep his client out of jail as much as possible, he expects Brennan to serve some time regardless.

We know she’s going to do jail time,” Flint said. “We just want to make sure it’s reasonable.”

Flint wants Brennan to be able to keep her job and residence on the Arizona Strip and is hoping whatever sentencing she receives will allow that.

“She’s just a human being who made a really bad mistake,” Flint said.

Leslee Henson, who sat in on previous court hearings, was not present at the hearing Monday. However, Washington County Deputy Attorney Zachary Weiland told the court he had been in contact with her, and that she agreed with the plea agreement.

Miss Henson and I feel this is a very good resolution,” Weiland said, adding her involvement was critical in resolving the case.

Though derived from a horribly tragic event, Flint said, the no contest plea works to the advantage of the parties involved.

For Brennan, the plea agreement allows her to maintain she wasn’t texting while also removing the possibility of prison, which made it “more workable,” Flint said.

The no contest plea also keeps the door open for a lawsuit Leslee Henson filed earlier this year against Konrath and the car dealer that sold Brennan her car.

If Brennan had pleaded guilty, she would have assumed all the blame for the incident and closed the door on any measure of liability for the accident the civil suit claims Konrath and the car dealer have in the case.

“It really works out better for everyone,” Flint said.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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16 Comments

  • R. June 29, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    And what part could the car dealer possibly have played in this tragedy? Why would Ms. Henson consider a lawsuit against them.

    • Mike June 29, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Suing the car dealership and Konrath (another victim) makes as much sense to me as suing the maker of the socks she was wearing the day this tragic accident happened.

    • Hunter June 30, 2015 at 11:07 am

      The only thing I could think of that would lead to this is if the dealer sold her the car knowing she did not have the required insurance?

  • KarenS June 30, 2015 at 6:37 am

    So, the speeding driver’s attorney says of the plea deal ““It really works out better for everyone,” Flint said. What about the driver she rear-ended that is being sued? What about the car dealer that is being sued? That is ridiculous.

    • CaliGirl June 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Carla is a guppy but the car dealership is the whale. Let the little guppy (with no money) off the hook which leaves the car dealership wide open for a law suit. Poor Mr. Konrath probably has pretty decent insurance (so they can collect a couple of dollars from him) but sadly, he is a victim as well. It is too bad she won’t do any real jail time since Carla did take another persons life. Interesting how Mrs. Henson was so willing to allow this plea deal when her husbands life was so violently taken.

  • Curtis June 30, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Let’s see — negligently kill someone, badly injure someone else and the consequence is, maybe, a short time in jail probably served on weekends and a bill for $216,000 which you will pay off at $10 a month. Sounds reasonable.

    • Real Life June 30, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Agree. Seems to me she got off a little easy, you know, for killing somebody and all.

  • beacon June 30, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Blaming the other driver who was hit from behind makes me wonder what type of a person Henson is. Perhaps her atty is the type that would stretch the law as far as possible and she’s just buying in? In any case, Konrath is a victim in this case, too. Shame on Henson for adding insult to injury!

  • fun bag June 30, 2015 at 11:34 am

    maybe since she’s suing everyone she should sue obama too, cuz we all know that somehow this is “the liberals” fault. Bama gonna take all the guns!!!

  • sagemoon June 30, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Come on, lady, take responsibility for your actions! A lawsuit against a victim and a car dealership? You make me sick. Do the right thing and take full responsibility for acting recklessly the day you killed a man. You already lucked out on not having to serve prison time.

    • KarenS June 30, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      The woman whose husband was killed has filed the lawsuit against the car dealership and the man whose car was hit from behind. Particularly sad since the driver who was hit from behind was a victim as well. We certainly live in times when everyone gets sued. Sad.

      • sagemoon July 1, 2015 at 8:54 am

        Oh, I see, I had the people confused. So the victim’s wife is going to sue the other victim and a car dealership? Still doesn’t make much sense. Money and revenge won’t make the pain of his death any better to bear.

      • Curtis July 1, 2015 at 9:54 am

        Personal injury lawyers aren’t called ambulance chasers for no reason.

  • DesertBill June 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    “The no contest plea also keeps the door open for a lawsuit Leslee Henson filed earlier this year against Konrath and the car dealer that sold Brennan her car.”

    Leslee is the wife of the man who died, not the driver – Carla Brennan.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic June 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      DesertBill – there is no error here. Leslee Henson is suing Konrath and the car dealer. An insurance company has already sued Brennan and obtained judgment against her, as mentioned earlier in the report.
      I hope that helps,
      ST. GEORGE NEWS
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • Stephanie February 22, 2016 at 12:41 am

        I know it sounds horrible and greedy, but suing these people isn’t personal, it is business. My car was in an accident and was pushed into the car parked in front of me. I was in the house, not even driving. It is just standard practice to go up the line. The guy my car hit sued me and my insurance sued the lady that hit me. It was not held against me. Same thing happened to my Mom. She was pushing my Aunt in her wheel chair and there was a lift in the sidewalk neither one of them had seen. My Aunt fell out and broke both elbows had all kinds of complications due to her diabetes, she was messed up. My Aunt sued the city for not maintaining the sidewalk and for weird reasons they had to sue my Mom also. It was just some sort of formality and she wasn’t out any money. I can pretty much bet that the man and the car dealer will both sue Brennan, unfortunately since she has no insurance they will loose out. But the law suits should not be held against them. Unless it is because they may have sold her a car without her having her insurance, they are screwed.

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