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Family of Woman Killed in Grass Valley ATV Crash Seeks Justice

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GRASS VALLEY -- The mother of a woman killed in April in a DUI crash on an ATV feels the woman behind the wheel is not being punished harshly enough.

The crash happened at Old Coach Way, near Lower Colfax Road in the Colfax/Grass Valley area. People were attending a party at a nearby home when witnesses say a heavily intoxicated Carlee D'Arata took three of her friends on an ATV and rode around the property.

"A few minutes later one of them came up the road just screaming and yelling and I just ran in that direction because I knew something really bad had happened," Kelley Riley said.

Riley was at the party as well and ran to help her friend, 31 year old Antonette Isaacson Thevenin. Riley told FOX40 that the driver and other passengers in the ATV ran from the crash, leaving Antonette pinned underneath the 1,000 pound ATV alone.

“There was no way I was gonna leaver her there. I sat with her, talked to her, told her it was gonna be okay and prayed with her. I didn’t know that that was like the last time,” Riley said.

CHP originally told FOX40 D'Arata was arrested and booked for DUI, hit-and-run and second degree murder.

The Nevada County District Attorney's office said the second degree murder accusation was allowed under law by way of the Watson Rule, which enables authorities to charge someone with second murder if they had a previous DUI conviction and then went on to chase a fatal DUI crash.

“It’s amazing to me, not a card not anything to say they were sorry," Antonette's mother Patricia Strom said.

Strom was upset Friday when she found out that after 4 months, the DA's office finally announced charges against D'Arata were not second degree murder as she expected and saw fit, but vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence. They said D'Arata would likely face ten years in prison.

"Ten years? Is that punishment enough? It’s not gonna bring my daughter back. She should be allowed to go home and tuck her daughter in at night when my daughter is gone. My granddaughter will never see her mom again," Strom said.

"It doesn’t seem right, and it doesn’t seem fair, and it seems like the justice system is failing," Riley said.

The DA's office told FOX40 that the Watson Rule would be difficult to adhere to in this case because D'Arata did not have any past record of serious charges besides the previous DUI.

They added that they took the time they needed to file charges based on what they believed they could prove in court.

FOX40 also reached out to D'Arata's attorney, Adam Gasner. He responded in writing saying:

"Carlee D'Arata accepts full responsibility for causing the tragic death of her close friend Antonette Thevenin. Carlee's pain and suffering over this terrible accident is nothing compared to the loss of the Thevenin family. As a result of the anguish Carlee D'Arata feels she will accept the maximum prison sentence available under the law for the charges she is facing.

There will be no legal defense and no long dragged out court proceedings. Ms. D'Arata intends on pleading guilty as charged at the earliest time possible in the hopes that her acceptance of responsibility and punishment will [be] a step in the healing process.

She is repentant and sorry for her actions and prays for the forgiveness of those that are suffering from her action. She understands the anger that is directed at her and hopes that by her accepting the maximum punishment available under the law that Antonette's family and loved ones will find peace."

Strom says that is not enough to bring justice for her daughter.

“She was amazing, amazing. We had her services in May, and there were in excess of 12 hundred people there. I had no idea how many people she had touched," Strom said.

Strom and Riley believe Antonette comes to them in photographs now that she has passed. In green orbs they say started showing up on multiple cameras following her death. It brings them comfort.

The next court date for this case is set for September 8th.