ELLSWORTH, Wis. – After less than two hours of deliberation, jurors have found a Wisconsin mom not guilty of all counts against her in a crash that killed her 11-year-old daughter and two nieces.
Kari Milberg was on trial for a December 2013 crash, The Centuria woman's SUV crossed the centerline and into the path of a truck. Prosecutors argued she was distracted driving, sending a series of Facebook messages moments before the crash. They, however, were not able to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.
Milberg was charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide and one misdemeanor county of reckless driving, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Milberg is hunched over in tears as second verdict of not-guilty is read— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) June 29, 2016
"This is a horrible tragedy...and it's been increasingly obvious that texting and driving is on the rise and it's something we want to focus on," said Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich. "I respect the jury's verdict, but regardless of the outcome, it doesn't change the fact that three kids lost their lives in this crash."
On Wednesday, Froelich introduced into evidence the chat log between accounts belonging to Milberg and Jason McKenzie, a friend of Milberg's.
The messages that day began that day at 3:05 p.m. with Milberg's account sending, "I'll meet you for lunch."
The two accounts write back and forth with a total of nine messages, most of them about being "nervous" about the potential meeting, with the final message, sent from McKenzie's account at 3:39 p.m., saying, "I'm not nervous."
Investigators say the fatal crash happened less than a minute later.
Defense attorney Aaron Nelson pressed on investigators to explain how they didn't investigate the possibility that 11-year-old Lydia Milberg, who died in the crash, was the one using the phone, and not her mother. The defense also argued weather conditions and worn tires played roles in the crash.
"It was a sad case all around," said Nelson following the verdict. "There was a lot of tears from Kari, but now they can grieve and heal in private."