An 18-year-old driver who struck and killed a Hermosa man in June was sentenced Friday to 200 hours of useful public
In an emotional court hearing, Dawnelle Canaday broke down crying on several occasions as she expressed remorse for
her driving behavior.
The accident occurred about 10:30 a.m. June 22 on a straight stretch of U.S. Highway 550, near mile marker 29.5, about a mile south of Trimble Hot Springs.
Canaday, who had her license for less than a month, was talking to her 16-year-old sister in the passenger seat and
rolling down a window when she drifted off the right side of the road.
The red 2002 Saturn sport utility vehicle struck Philip Gene Spotts, 58, who was walking southbound on the side of
He was killed instantly.
In a plea agreement with the District Attorney's Office, Canaday was facing up to one year in jail after pleading
guilty to careless driving causing death.
But La Plata County Judge Martha Minot said jail serves three purposes: to rehabilitate, protect society and
punishment. Because Canaday does not need rehabilitation and is not a threat to society, the only reason to send her
to jail would be for punishment, Minot said.
While Minot called Canaday's driving behavior "exceedingly careless," she said a jail sentence does not balance the
Of the 200 hours of community service, Canaday must spend 50 hours picking up trash and the remainder at animal
shelters, veterans' organizations and retirement homes, in honor of Spotts.
In addition to community service, Canaday will be on a court-supervised probation for two years.
If she gets even a speeding ticket, she must serve 182 days in jail, Minot said.
She also must take a defensive-driving class and complete an "Alive at 25" safe-driving course for teens and young
For the first time since the accident, Canaday met Spotts' mother face-to-face Friday and apologized for the
accident. She spoke in a soft, childish voice.
"I wish so bad and I hope every day that I can explain what happened, but I can't," she said through tears. "I'm so
Spotts lived with his mother and took care of her at the Ranch subdivision near Hermosa. He frequently walked to a
market in Hermosa or to Durango.
He loved animals and sent care packages to the U.S. soldiers overseas, said his mother, Amilene Spotts.
"Unless you have lost a child, you have no idea what I am going through," she said in court.
"Philip was a very good person," she said. "He was very patriotic. He sent books to the soldiers in Iraq. I just
can't believe he is gone. I think it was a real uncalled-for accident."
Canaday's vehicle was about 8 feet off the road when she hit Spotts.
Her entire vehicle was on the wrong side of the white fog line at the time of impact, said Colorado State Patrol Sgt.
Spotts' shoe left a mark on the pavement where he was hit, which was 5.8 feet away from the fog line. He was knocked
192 feet off the road.
Canaday said didn't see Spotts and thought she hit a deer.
About 40 people attended Friday's sentencing hearing. Most observers were Canady's friends or family.
Deputy District Attorney Aaryn Richardson said Spotts didn't have a lot of friends - he couldn't fill a courtroom -
but his family loved him.
Prosecutors subpoenaed Canaday's cell phone records to investigate ifr she was talking or texting at the time of the
accident. The records showed she wasn't using her phone, but she did text her boyfriend shortly after the accident.
The messages seemed nonchalant and focused on her daily affairs.
In court Friday, Canaday and her family assured Spotts' mother that she was devastated about the accident, and it
took her several hours to understand she had killed someone.
The Rev. John Knutson, who responded to the accident scene, seemed to corroborate those statements. He said Canaday
and her 16-year-old sister were crying and shaken up in the back of the ambulance, and it took her several hours to
fully understand what happened.
Durango defense lawyer Stephen Wells said unfortunately, Canaday's driving behavior wasn't significantly different
from many drivers who use that stretch of highway and become distracted.