MONROE (AP) — When the water bottle fell to the floor of the car, Caitlin Hommerson went to pick it up and took her eyes off the street for two, maybe three, seconds. And then a life was lost.
It happened that quickly.
Now 18-year-old Hommerson of Monroe wants to be heard loud and clear: Distracted driving can and does kill.
“I’m trying to convey a message,” she told The Monroe Evening News “You can’t be distracted while driving.”
It was one year ago this month that Shelly Deaton was hit by Hommerson’s car and killed as she stood in her own driveway. She was watching her daughter, Desirae, walk toward the school bus in their quiet neighborhood. Hommerson was behind the wheel of that 1994 Dodge and lives around the corner from the Deatons. It was still dark that morning when Hommerson and her sister, Andi, headed to Monroe High School. Hommerson stopped at a stop sign and then turned the corner, causing the bottle to tumble to the floor. As she tried to retrieve it, she leaned and accidentally steered the car toward a mailbox.
The car crashed through the mailbox and Desirae watched as it headed straight for her mother. Hommerson looked up and saw Deaton.
“She was right there,” Hommerson said.
In the year since the accident, Hommerson was charged with a moving violation causing death, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. She was represented by Monroe attorney William P. Godfroy and sentenced by First District Judge Mark S. Braunlich to six months of probation and fined more than $900.
While some wanted her to serve time in jail, Deaton’s father, Bill, comforted and forgave Hommerson when they saw each other in court.
“She was crying so hard in court I took her hand,” Deaton said. “My heart was torn out when I saw how hard she was taking it.”