A 25-year-old Rancho Mirage woman was sentenced to a life term of probation plus community service Friday for her part in the death of her infant daughter during a car crash in Palm Desert.
Kristen Lauer, who sat weeping in a wheelchair as the decision was handed down, was left permanently disabled after the Porsche sportscar in which her boyfriend was driving struck a metal guardrail and tumbled down an embankment about 200 feet off state Route 74 on May 1, 2016.
She was later charged with murder and wilful child cruelty for her part in the crash, along with her boyfriend.
The crash killed the couple's 5-month-old daughter, Armani Green, who was riding unrestrained on Lauer's lap because the car had racing modifications that prevented use of the backseats, according to prosecutors. After the crash, the baby was ejected from the Porsche and thrown about 90 feet from the car, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Local news from across Southern California
"She will be labeled as a murderer for the rest of her life, as she deserves,'' said Riverside County Superior Court Judge Burke Strunsky. "But she is not a public safety threat in this court's opinion.''
While delivering his decision, Strunksy said the law afforded him two options in deciding Lauer's sentence -- 15 years to life in prison or a life term of probation.
Strunksy sided with the later for a variety of factors, he said, including the fact she was not driving the car at the time of the crash, and that she had no prior criminal history.
She must also complete 500 hours of community service as part of her sentence.
Along with lifetime probation, she was also sentenced to 364 days custody to be served in home detention.
"This is not an intentional criminal act,'' he said. "This is an neglectful criminal act.''
Strunksy also mentioned Lauer's disability as a factor in his decision. Following the crash, she was left with a traumatic brain injury, a spinal facture and damage to a lung, he said. He did note that she was not permanently wheelchair-bound and could walk on her on own.
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao argued that Lauer should receive at least a sentence of 15 years to life.
"When the court was talking about justice, I just want to clarify that the people's position in this case (is) 15 to life in a case where a baby is dead because of her parent's actions.''
Also left seriously injured following the crash was the baby's father and Lauer's boyfriend at the time, 55-year-old Thermal resident Marcus Green.
Strunksy ruled in February that Green must stand trial on murder and child endangerment charges. His trial readiness conference scheduled Friday was postponed to Jan. 29.
Though it is uncertain how fast Green was driving when the crash occurred, Paixao contended during his preliminary hearing that the defendant was going in excess of the 30 mph speed limit in the area where the crash occurred.
Thomas Carlson, a forensic mechanic with the California Highway Patrol, testified that the car had no significant mechanical issues that could have contributed to the crash, though he did say that the right rear tire was leaking, but not enough to cause the wreck.
Green is being held at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning in lieu of $1.8 million bail.