An unlicensed teenage driver who caused a crash in Pennsylvania last year that killed three 15-year-old boys was spared jail time this week and instead was sentenced to indefinite probation.
Julia Ware, 16, a New Yorker, got her judgement handed down to her on Tuesday at Wayne County Court in Pennsylvania, where a judge also ordered her to perform 300 hours of community service, write a 2,000-word essay on the impact of the accident, as well as letters of apology to the victims' families.
As part of her punishment, the 16-year-old also will have to pay nearly $24,000 in restitution and attend weekly counselling meetings.
The car she was driving was a 2001 Chevrolet Suburban SUV which belonged to her father on August 30, 2014. It overturned at the bottom of a steep hill in Paupack Township, killing three 15-year-olds; Ryan Lesher, Cullen Keffer and Shamus Digney.
Three others, including Julia, survived with injuries.
"She got off too easy," Ed Lesher said outside the courthouse.
Another parent, Joe Keffer, who lost his son Cullen in the crash, had a more positive take on the outcome of the case.
"She [Julia Ware] understands that she hurt a lot of people and created a lot of sadness and misery,' he said, adding that he believes Ware has learned 'a valuable life lesson.'
The sentencing phase came a month after Ware accepted responsibility for three felony counts of homicide by vehicle and two misdemeanor counts of accident involving death or injury.
The seven other offenses Ware was originally charged with were dropped after her admissions.
Her father, 54-year-old Michael Ware, is awaiting trial on three counts of involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children and other charges for allegedly allowing Ware to drive.
Julia Ware initially told police she borrowed her father’s car without his permission, but she later changed her story, admitting in a written statement that her father let her take his car so she could pick up a breakfast sandwich for him, even though she had no driver's license.
Mr Ware's attorney has denied the allegations against him.
Michael Ware is scheduled to go on trial in July. He is currently out on $100,000 bail.
Julia Ware's attorney, John Stieh, said his teenage client has been haunted by the deadly accident since it happened, and even though she is not behind bars, she is 'in a dark' and 'nasty' place.
Speaking after a hearing last month, Ed Lesher said of Julia Ware: 'She knew she was wrong. She knew she shouldn't have been driving. She knew she was going fast.
"The boys were telling her to slow down. She didn't slow down."
"She thought it was funny to go faster. She murdered three boys, one of them my son Ryan. She should be punished like her father."
During Tuesday's emotional disposition hearing - the juvenile equivalent of adult sentencing - Julia Ware read a statement in court telling the victims' families assembled before her that she wished she had been killed in the crash.
"I wish I didn’t feel everyone labels me as a killer. I made a mistake I cannot fix. I want you to know how sorry I am,"Julia said.
Relatives of the three deceased Council Rock High School South sophomores also got a chance to present their victim impact statements, reducing almost everyone in the courtroom to tears.
"You robbed our family, our friends, our school and our community. He was the light of our lives and you snuffed that light out. We have a life sentence without our Ryan," Lisa Lesher said, directly addressing Julia.
Ware, who is now 16, will be back in court within a month or so for the juvenile equivalent of sentencing
She said she would like to start a charitable organization in honor of Ryan Lesher, Cullen Keffer and Shamus Digney.