Woman pleads to fleeing in Chandler double fatal The Chandler Arizonan

Woman pleads to fleeing in Chandler double fatal

November 18th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Woman pleads to fleeing in Chandler double fatal
City News

By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

A Tempe woman is expected to be put on probation after pleading guilty to fleeing after her vehicle struck and killed a father and son last year in northern Chandler.

Michelle Hagerman, 55, admitted to driving away after she hit 50-year-old Mohammad Misbah Uddin as he walked along a crosswalk with his 13-year-old son, Abdullah, near Alma School Road and Erie Street on Oct. 21, 2019.

Uddin died at the scene and Abdullah succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital.

Witnesses claimed the motorist who hit Uddin and his son stopped momentarily before driving off without checking to see if the pedestrians were safe.

Chandler Police arrested Hagerman after her neighbor noticed that the defendant’s vehicle matched a description investigators had circulated through the news media.

Hagerman initially told investigators she thought she had hit a dog, police reports show.

A Maricopa County grand jury indicted Hagerman on two counts of manslaughter.

Prosecutors decided to dismiss the manslaughter charges last December after realizing they might have a tough time proving Hagerman’s guilt in court.

Arizona law states a citizen’s guilty of manslaughter only if prosecutors can prove they recklessly caused the death of another person.

Because Hagerman was driving through an intersection while the traffic light was green, there was some doubt that the defendant’s actions could count as manslaughter.

As Uddin and his son walked along the crosswalk, the traffic lights reportedly changed and allowed traffic to move through the intersection, court records show.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office decided to charge Hagerman with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, a Class 3 felony.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 7 – nearly one year after the accident – and may be able to avoid a prison sentence.

Although the criminal charge carries a presumptive prison sentence of 3.5 years, prosecutors offered Hagerman a plea deal that allowed her to be placed on supervised probation.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Hagerman will be given a one-year jail sentence and credited for the 60 days she already in jail before pleading guilty. The remaining 10 months of the jail sentence will be deferred if Hagerman complies with her probation requirements.

Hagerman will additionally have her driving privileges revoked and be instructed not to make contact with the victim’s family, according to the plea deal.

Bret Royle, the defendant’s attorney, advocated for probation as the appropriate form of punishment and emphasized how Hagerman was not impaired at the time of the accident.

“It is a tremendous tragedy that two people lost their lives in the accident in this case,” Royle wrote in a statement. “Ms. Hagerman, however, did not cause the accident as she had the right-of-way with a green traffic signal.”

Her attorney further highlighted Hagerman’s lack of a criminal history as a reason for leniency.

“Ms. Hagerman greatly regrets her actions for failing to remain at the scene,” Royle added. “She had never been in trouble before and exercised poor judgement because she was scared.”

The deaths of Uddin and his son attracted national media attention because the victims died less than a month after immigrating to the United States.

Their family had relocated to Arizona from Bangladesh only 11 days before the accident.

Community support for Uddin’s surviving wife and daughter came swiftly after the collision and more than $65,000 was donated to the family for funeral expenses.

In the year since Uddin and his son’s deaths, Chandler has had a significant number of fatal car accidents across the city – some of which have also claimed the lives of teenagers.

An 18-year-old girl died on Sept. 18 after the car she was riding in was struck by another vehicle near Price and Queen Creek roads.

Two juveniles were killed on Sept. 17 near Elliot and Dobson roads after they lost control of their vehicle and crossed into oncoming traffic.

On Nov. 3, a man and woman died in a collision on the Loop 101 freeway near Frye Road, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The most recent fatality took place on Nov. 4 after 38-year-old Christi Enos allegedly struck a motorcyclist near Queen Creek and Price roads. Enos was reportedly impaired and was booked into jail on a charge of manslaughter.

Chandler is so far on track to end 2020 with a fatality count that’s comparable to previous years. As of this month, the city’s logged at least 12 car collisions that resulted in a death.

In 2019, the city reported 15 traffic fatalities and 2,148 injuries. Sixteen people died in 2016 from Chandler’s car accidents and another 1,946 were injured, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

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