A Mountain Home woman charged with manslaughter stemming from a June 12th, 2018 auto accident injuring a pregnant woman and ultimately leading to the death of her baby entered a guilty plea during a session of Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.The sentence is the maximum penalty for the crime. She was also charged with a misdemeanor count of reckless driving.A hearing had been set for Thursday on the mental condition of 44-year-old Michele Lynn Wood, but since the plea was entered, it was apparent she had been found fit to proceed and criminally responsible for her actions.
Her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mark Cooper, said the results of the mental evaluation would not be challenged. Cooper had indicated at one point he would base his defense on mental disease and defect. He told Circuit Judge Gordon Webb he had explained all of Wood's options to her, including the possibility of arranging for another evaluation paid for by the state Public Defender Commission. He said Wood had indicated she did not want to exercise any of the options and wanted to plead guilty.
According to court records, Wood exhibited bizarre behavior while locked up in the Baxter County jail, including screaming loudly on a nonstop basis. She was also said to have pounded very hard on her isolation cell door for days at a time. Her speech was described as little more than "rambling nonsense."
As Judge Webb was going through the process of taking Wood's plea, she was asked a series of questions which she answered in a soft, quiet voice.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Wood was accused of driving in a reckless manner prior to the accident last year as she made her way through a wide swath of the county. A number of calls were made to 911 reporting her progress, as well as providing information on her erratic activity both inside and outside her vehicle.
Eventually, a witness reported Wood's vehicle passed him at a high rate of speed in the area of the Mountain Home square. As it went around a sharp curve a short distance from the courthouse, her car collided with another vehicle. A passerby rushed the pregnant passenger in the car hit by Wood to Baxter Regional Medical Center. The woman was reported to be eight months pregnant at the time.
The expectant mother was rushed into surgery after reaching BRMC, and a female baby was delivered. The baby was transported to Arkansas Childrens' Hospital in Little Rock where she died after being taken off life support about two days later.
Police bodycam video recorded at the scene of the accident shows a passenger in Wood's vehicle telling officers after the collision, "She was driving way too fast for conditions coming around that curve. I told her to slow down."
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