Mother of fatal prom car crash victim believes teen suspect is 'getting away with murder'
MOAB, Utah (KUTV) It was 10:00 a.m. when Honey Dawson’s phone rang. On the other end, her worst nightmare.
The Moab mom listened as her cousin explained to her that her 13-year-old daughter, Tierney was dead.
Dawson last saw her daughter the night before as she left for the Grand County prom. She thought her daughter was sleeping over at a friend’s house that night, safe with friends.
The nightmare call turned out to be false. Tierney was alive, but on her way to air lifted to Primary Children’s hospital. Two of her daughters friends however, were dead.
The night of the accident, 14-year-old Taylor Bryant, and 16-year-old Connor Denney did not survive a rollover and crash.
The 2 teens were found ejected from the car when emergency crews arrived at the scene early Monday morning on March 5.
17-year-old Daniel McCrary, was ejected from the car but survived along with Tierney who was 13 years old at the time. The driver, Gage Moore, also survived. Court documents state that he was under the influence of alcohol and driving at least 80 mph in a 40 mph zone.
The survivors of the crash say he was going as fast as “125 mph” as he sped down a winding canyon.
Monday morning Moore is expected to plead guilty to two counts of automobile homicide, a second-degree felony, and two counts of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor.
Ahead of his expected plea, the mother of the youngest survivor felt compelled to speak out on what she says is a case of a young man "getting away with murder."
Dawson sat down with 2News Heidi Hatch to make sure people know what happened the night of the fatal crash.
“The district attorney went ahead with the plea bargain he can't argue for more than a year in jail and three years’ probation. I don't believe killing two kids and nearly killing two more under the influence of alcohol is a one-year thing.” Dawson said.
The plea deal agreement came on July 21. Dawson and her daughter were not in court that day, but instead the hospital.
Tierney had a “104-degree fever and tonsillitis.” They were hoping for a continuance in court, but instead got a call from the mother of the second survivor saying they had 5 minutes to decide if they’d back a plea deal. A deal that would drop a laundry list of felonies including sex assault charges.
Nearly six months out from the fatal crash, Dawson can finally talk about her daughter’s story of survival and the crash that claimed the life of two of her best friends.
“Her entire brain was bruised, two frontal lobe bleeds, 5 broken teeth, her humerus on her right arm shattered, her right ankle gone.” Dawson said.
“The kids didn't have their seat belts” she explains with tear stained cheeks. “Taylor (Tierney’s best friend) got scared and reached over and put Tierney’s seat belt on- and pulled her close to her, but didn't have time to put her own seat belt on.”
The four kids riding in the car had not been drinking and had no idea that Moore who'd offered them a ride was under the influence of alcohol. “Those kids don't drink.” said Dawson.
Taylor and Tierney had gone stag at the last minute to prom, but left the dance not long after arriving. They walked around town grabbing ice cream and sodas while they waited for Daniel McCrary to get off work. They ended up at his house playing video games, the same house where they had permission to spend the night.
Tierney told her mom it was at 2:00 a.m. when they got restless and wanted to go for a walk. Dawson said the kids asked Daniel’s mom for permission, and “Of course she said no, but they went for a walk anyway.”
The four kids were spotted by a police officer not long after sneaking out. Scared their parents would be called, the four teens ran and jumped a fence and that's when they spotted Moore.
They decided to ask him for a ride home not knowing he was under the influence. Once in the car, Moore allegedly drove past Daniel’s home, cursed and said “F” this and started up a nearby canyon. Dawson says the kids begged him to turn around, but he refused. They hit a snowbank at the top of the canyon where he decided to stop.
“There were several times he ripped her (Tierney) out of the vehicle he forcibly kissed her things like that.” Dawson said.
Moore was charged with sexual abuse of a child for what Tierney endured on that mountain---along with a laundry list of felonies for the deaths of Taylor and Connor. The vast majority of the charges were dropped when a last minute plea deal was made with prosecutor Kendall Laws. On the phone, he told 2News the plea deal was actually a “good thing.” He said having Moore willing to plead to charges in adult court as opposed to juvenile court would mean stiffer penalties. Dawson doesn’t believe that will be the case.
“As a mom, watching your child go through this is a living hell and it's all because of one person’s decisions.” Dawson said.
Tierney wasn’t ready to an interview herself but told her mom “she feels betrayed and isn't getting the justice that is deserved. She feels Gage needs to go to prison and not just a year or two, but several years.”
Dawson agrees with her daughter, “you can't go and kill two kids and nearly kill two others and just get away with it with a slap on the wrist because you are almost 18.”
Moore will likely never go to prison. That is why Tierney plans to take the stand in court. She wants to tell the judge about how she lost her best friend Taylor, her boyfriend Connor, and her life as she knows it.
Tierney’s leg was saved in surgery, but she lost her ankle on one leg. Her next surgery is set for September and it likely won’t be her last. Her mom says she suffers from PTSD, has issues from her brain bleeds and “may never be the same.”
The young teen now wears long pants and shirts to cover her scars. She now lives in Salt Lake County to be close to doctors and Primary Children’s. She plans to take online classes as she works to regain her life.
Daniel McCrary and his mom will be in court along with Dawson, DeMille and the families of the children who did not survive.
2News will be in court for the sentencing.
To follow Tierney’s recovery, watch for updates on https://www.facebook.com/TierneysRecovery/
Dawson, a single mom needs help with medical bills, friends and loved ones have set a gofundme for those who would like to help.
A local business, Empathy Boutique, is selling Tierney Bath bombs and donating a dollar from each purchase to help with medical costs.