Cordell Woman Pleads Guilty In Cyclist's Death
WASHITA COUNTY, Oklahoma - The Cordell woman charged with killing one cyclist and injuring another while texting and driving last year reached a plea deal Thursday.
Sarah Morris pleaded guilty to both manslaughter and overtaking a bicycle. She will serve ten months of a 15-year sentence and will then have to speak publicly about the dangers of texting and driving.
The families of Patrick Wanninkhof, 25, and Bridget Anderson, 22, say they are finally feeling a sense of closure. Wanninkhof died and Anderson suffered severe injuries to her leg when Morris crashed into their bicycles outside of Cordell in July 2015.
Morris admitted she was texting and driving, and after spending time behind bars she will have to give 18 lectures in a three-year period about her experience so that she never forgets her victims.
"We wanted to see some indication that the defendant took some responsibility for the horrible thing she did and we feel that accepting this deal was a small indication," said Wanninkhof's father Rik.
Rik Wanninkhof flew from Florida to give victim impact statements written by he and his daughter. Each talked about the loss of Patrick, a physics teacher for Teach for America in New York City. He and Anderson were riding their bikes from Maine to California to build houses with Habitat for Humanity in different states.
Rik said, "I was looking out the courthouse door and see the road that Patrick was killed on. That really sort of affects you. These were his last scenes on earth."
Anderson's father also came to the Washita County courthouse to give her victim impact statement. Her words reflected the pain she has experienced in the past year, going through 11 surgeries and fearing the loss of her leg.
Morris will begin her sentence on Dec. 10. She has to pay $46,854 in restitution and will have to take defensive driving class after she is released. She also has to maintain employment. She is currently a registered nurse and will have to continue the required annual training to keep her certification.
Wanninkhof's mother has since started her own campaign to end texting and driving. Called Sock-It, she encourages people to buy a pair of socks to hold their phone while they drive. One sock is for the buyer and the other is to give to a friend. She hopes to spread the message, "Never text and drive."