Sierra White at initial appearances November 22; Townsend Justice Center (Gregory Hirst, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — The trial for the driver in a crash on Highway 220 that resulted in the death of a 5-year-old boy and injured others began Monday in Natrona County District Court.

The state charges that Sierra Maelynn White recklessly caused the child’s death when she did not stop at a clearly marked stop sign while entering the highway from Pathfinder Road and collided with an eastbound semi on June 9, 2022.

A filing on the state’s evidence indicates that the victim’s mother “witnessed the Defendant’s cell phone usage at the time of the crash” and, seeing the stop sign coming, “called out for her to stop.”

The child’s mother, her friend and another child were also in the car and were hospitalized in the crash. The driver of the semi also sustained a pelvic fracture, according to the charging documents.

The felony charge of aggravated homicide by vehicle (6-2-106) carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. A comparable charge of criminally negligent homicide by vehicle carries a penalty of up to one year in prison. The defense, led by public defenders Steve Mink and Marty Scott, has indicated it will argue for total acquittal.

The jury is expected to receive instructions on the elements necessary to support conviction, including on the lesser, included charge, when it convenes on Wednesday.

White is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The filing by prosecuting attorney Blaine Nelson indicates that Natrona County Sheriff’s Office investigators found about 20 self-made social media videos of White singing, talking and otherwise interacting with the phone while she was driving.

Nelson singled out two such videos: one made on the day of the crash and one made on the following Halloween.

White was charged in circuit court on Nov. 22 and pleaded not guilty in District Court in April.

Nelson wrote that White “regularly chose to distract herself while driving, … a plainly destructive activity.” 

It is a misdemeanor in Wyoming to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving (31-5-237).

The crash scene was investigated by NCSO Sgt. Taylor Courtney and WHP District 2 Lt. PJ Cross, who stated the passenger vehicle was travelling about 47 mph when it collided with the semi.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify that the state amended the charge from manslaughter to aggravated homicide by vehicle, which carries the same maximum penalty.