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PROVO — Before she perished in a car wreck in April, 2-year-old Chelsea Parkinson hated when anyone around her was angry, her mother recalled Thursday.
So her family has chosen to set aside resentment and forgive the driver of a utility truck who failed to brake, slamming into their station wagon as it waited to turn left in Provo.
"Why should we be any different (than Chelsea)? Why is it OK if we are so full of anger and hatred?" Caitlin Parkinson said. "That would just drive us away from her and her memory."
The Parkinson family urged a judge not to order jail time for 38-year-old Rick Davis Winder, the Pleasant Grove maintenance worker whose 9,000-pound truck drifted across traffic. The Parkinsons noted Winder has a family of his own.
Fourth District Judge James Taylor obliged. He sentenced Winder to two years of probation, along with 400 hours of community service.
Winder in October pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor. As part of a plea bargain with prosecutors and in exchange for the guilty plea, three counts of aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, were dismissed.
The Parkinsons, who were visiting from Colorado at the time of the crash, previously met with Winder at the Provo Library and forgave him after seeing his remorse firsthand, they said. Winder expressed regret on Thursday, as well.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could take that little girl's place," he said just before the judge issued the sentence.
On April 15, police said, Winder was driving the truck for the city of Pleasant Grove when he veered into the center lane where three cars were stopped at the traffic light waiting to turn left, court documents show.
He crashed into the back of a station wagon at approximately 55 miles per hour at the intersection of 3700 North and University Avenue, killing 2-year-old Chelsea Parkinson and injuring her 7-month-old sister, her 31-year-old father and 30-year-old mother.
Prosecutors said each suffered "significant head trauma," leading to a temporary medically induced coma for Caitlin Parkinson. Reed Parkinson also had broken ribs and a spinal fracture.
Investigators said Winder offered different accounts of why his 9,000-pound truck drifted across traffic. Winder told a doctor "he may have dozed off," but told police "he had been distracted by his fiancée … when she placed her hand on his shoulder and he turned to kiss her hand," the charges state.
His attorney, Steve Burton, said after the hearing his client doesn't remember making such statements. Winder or the doctor may have speculated to police about what happened, he said.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could take that little girl's place.
–Rick Davis Winder
"As far as we can tell, it was simply that Rick briefly took his eyes off the road and drifted over into the next lane," Burton said. And Winder has no memory of the crash.
Police initially reported that Winder tested positive for oxycodone shortly after the accident. Burton said he believes the determination was incorrect.
Winder had prescriptions for pain medications but tests did not reveal drug levels high enough to indicate impairment, Burton said. His client has no criminal history, Burton added, yet has lost his maintenance job with Pleasant Grove.
As the girl's family members hugged each other and cried outside the courtroom on Thursday, Reed Parkinson said the family misses Chelsea very much and continues to grieve.
"But we realized that Rick is a real person, he is a human being," he said. "It took a little while to realize that, but once we did, we were able to forgive him."