Driver sentenced to prison for striking, killing 6-year-old girl
SALT LAKE CITY — Natalie Amalathithada walked into court Monday hoping for two things: an apology from the driver who struck and killed her 6-year-old daughter last year, and a prison sentence of six years, seven months and three days.
She was given neither.
"I wanted her to be in there every day my daughter was alive," Amalathithada said.
Third District Judge Robin Reese ordered Janeen Lundberg, 47, to serve two concurrent terms of zero to five years in prison for negligent homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, third-degree felonies.
Reese explained that the sentences were indeterminate, that all that was available to him for what Lundberg had pleaded to was the zero to five years in prison and that the Board of Pardons would ultimately determine how much time Lundberg would serve.
"(It) really is a difficult thing to decide what to do," the judge said.
On the one hand, Lundberg clearly did not intend to hit and kill Ambrosia Amalathithada-Ramsayer, 6, while the young girl was walking home from school with her mother on March 14, 2012.
But she was driving while under the influence of prescription drugs, albeit ones she had been prescribed.
"I think everyone appreciates the fact that this is a tough case," Reese said. "What you did was at least reckless and had serious consequences for these people."
Lundberg was given the opportunity to speak but declined. Amalathithada did not waste time when her turn came.
"Janeen Lundberg, you ruined my life," she said through her tears. "I have lifelong injuries (and) $114,000 in hospital bills that I can not pay. But the worst part of everything is you took something from me that can not be replaced. You took my 6-year-old girl's life."
She told Lundberg that what she did was unforgivable. No excuse or apology could bring her daughter back, and she repeated her request that Lundberg spend a day in prison for every day Ambrosia was alive.
"I never get to hear her voice, see her smile or feel her touch again," Amalathithada said. "I never even get to watch her graduate from first grade."
The young girl and her mother were heading west across State Street when they were struck by a northbound vehicle near 1500 South. The girl died as the result of her injuries. Her mother was critically injured but survived.
Lundberg apparently lost control of her vehicle and swerved into the pedestrians, according to prosecutors.
Police officers testified previously that Lundberg told them she was taking five to eight prescription medications and then submitted to a blood draw. All of the substances apparently had sedative effects.
Lundberg also told police she stopped at a 7-Eleven before the crash to buy NoDoz, Diet Coke and coffee.
"She knew she was dangerous to drive and she did it anyway in an impaired state," prosecutor Sandi Johnson said. "A motor vehicle is a dangerous weapon, and we should all be more cautious. When you take a controlled substance, you have a higher duty."
Defense attorney John Walsh said his client not only had prescriptions for what she had taken but was taking legal amounts. He said his client is heartbroken about what happened and takes full responsibility for it.
"There's really nothing we can do today that's going to make her feel worse about what happened," Walsh said, noting that his client had already served 421 days in jail. "Nothing's going to lessen the loss from the pain of Ambrosia. I submit that no additional jail time or prison time will make things any better."
Ambrosia's grandfather, Jason Ganieany, told the judge that the loss of the child was tragic for the family. His wife, Trina Reid, said it was the "absolute worst, most awful thing that could happen to our family."
"It's hard to deal with. My daughter's gone and I still don't want to believe it," Amalathithada said before turning her thoughts to Lundberg. "She could have said something. I'm not going to go away."
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