Unattentive Driver Convicted in Crash That Killed Toddler

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Clockwork mentioned in October that Armstrong Owen Kitchen, 39, of Riverside, faced charges for crashing into the back of a sport utility vehicle, killing a 2-year-old toddler in her child safety seat. He pleaded guilty today to one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act without gross negligence and one misdemeanor count of possession or marijuana while driving.

Kitchen's sentence follows after the jump . . .

He received three years of probation, 300 hours of community service at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving office and the suspension of his driver's license for 18 months. The sentence officially includes 120 days in jail, but that will be stayed pending successful completion of his probation, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

Kitchen could have got a year in prison.

He was driving north on the 55 freeway around 10:50 a.m. Dec. 11, 2008, when his Chevy pick-up slammed into the back of an SUV that had stopped because a sedan in front of it experienced a blown tire and had come to a halt with its hazard lights on. John Sales, the driver of the SUV, had been on his way home from taking his two sick children--2-year-old Sophia and 3-month-old Connor--from a doctor's appointment and he was unable to change lanes in time to get around the sedan.

Kitchen, who was driving between 55 and 65 mph, did not pay attention and slammed into the back of Sales' stopped car, forcing it into the disabled sedan. The back of Sales' car and the front of Kitchen's car were severely damaged. 

As Sales and a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer who witnessed the crash went to check on the two children strapped into child-safety seats in the SUV's back seat, Kitchen's truck apparently ignited in flames. The children, who included an unconscious Sophia, were quickly removed for fear that Sales' car might also catch on fire.

Arriving officers allegedly found marijuana in Kitchen's truck, although he was not accused of having been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. He was taken to the hospital along with everyone who had been in Sales' SUV, and it is there that Sophia passed away due to blunt force trauma to her head and chest.
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