Deal announced for teen accused of double murder in deliberate car crash

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OGDEN — A teenage girl charged with murdering two people in an attempt to take her own life will plead guilty to reduced charges of attempted murder in both the juvenile and adult court systems, her attorney said Wednesday.

The case against Marilee Patricia Gardner, who turned 17 in April, will be dismissed and re-filed in the juvenile court system as two counts of attempted murder, first-degree felonies, rather than the current charges of murder, her attorney said.

Gardner is accused of deliberately crashing her mother's SUV into another car in a suicide attempt last year, killing two people.

Attorney Tara Isaacson, standing beside her shackled client, told the judge that Gardner will plead guilty to one charge as a juvenile, while the second will be moved back to the adult system.

Gardner will then plead guilty as an adult, but sentencing will be delayed until she completes her time in juvenile custody, potentially as late as age 21, Isaacson explained. When the adult sentence is handed down, Gardner faces at least three years and up to life in prison, the attorney said.

Isaacson said prosecutors and the victims' families agreed to the deal as a way to bring the case to a close.

Police say Gardner stole a Chevy Tahoe from her parents' home in Layton last year and went to meet a 17-year-old friend in Roy. The pair were planning on "purchasing drugs, taking the drugs and then crashing her mother's car with both of them inside in an attempt to kill themselves," charging documents state.

While fleeing from an officer who tried to pull her over, Gardner is charged with slamming into the back of another car while going almost 100 mph near the intersection of 3500 West and 6000 South in Roy. The occupants of the other vehicle — Maddison Haan, 20, of West Point, and Tyler Christianson, 19, of Ogden — were killed on impact.

Gardner, who had turned 16 less than three months before the crash, was charged as an adult with two counts of murder, a first-degree felony.

Utah statute specifies that murder charges for juveniles who are 16 or 17 years old are directly filed into district court. Murder charges against a juvenile who is 15 years old or younger must be filed in juvenile court.

Gardner was also charged with failing to stop at the command of an officer and failure to remain at the scene of an accident involving death, both third-degree felonies.

Gardner's attorneys argued unsuccessfully in September to move the case into the juvenile system. Though charged as an adult, she is able to remain in custody in a juvenile facility while the case is adjudicated.

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McKenzie Romero


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