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Southern Idaho man pleads guilty in fatal crash

A southern Idaho man pleaded guilty Tuesday to reckless driving for his role in a crash near Twin Falls that killed two teenage College of Southern Idaho students, as part of an agreement with prosecutors in the case.

A magistrate judge sentenced Kade D. Laughlin, 21, of Filer, to serve 180 days in jail but then suspended all but 20 days of the sentence during the hearing, where relatives of the two victims were disappointed after their request to read impact statements were denied.

Twin Falls prosecutor Grant Loebs opted to obtain a guilty plea instead of taking the case to trial, where relatives of the deceased still wouldn’t be allowed to read statements. That’s because family members of the deceased are only allowed to address the court during homicide cases, under state statues.

“I was disappointed they weren’t allowed to say something,” Loebs told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “I think it would have helped the mothers. I think they would have felt better if they would have been able to do that.”

Laughlin will serve 10 days in jail and complete 10 days of community service, talking to young people about the Sept. 12, 2010, car crash that killed 18-year-old Ryan Reinhardt and 19-year-old Devon Austin of Coeur d’Alene.

Austin was a college baseball player and had been drafted by the Chicago Cubs.

Laughlin was accused of chasing Reinhardt’s vehicle that night following a verbal altercation at a party. Austin and another teenager, 19-year-old Jessica Duran, were passengers in Reinhardt’s car when he crashed at a U.S. Highway 30 intersection while traveling at speeds in excess of 94 mph.

Reinhardt’s blood alcohol level was .19, twice the legal limit of .08, police said.

Duran, the only survivor of the car crash, later reported that Laughlin had pursued the vehicle that night and he was arrested by Twin Falls County Sheriff’s deputies for driving under the influence. An investigation later found Laughlin ended the chase of Reinhardt’s vehicle before the crash.

Laughlin pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was ordered to pay a $582 fine and placed on probation for one year. He has since been sentenced to eight days in jail for violating the terms of his probation by being in the possession of alcohol on two separate occasions, according to court records.

Along with the jail time and community service, Laughlin was also ordered to pay $500 in fines and serve an additional two years of probation after pleading guilty to the reckless driving charge. He will also lose his driving privileges for 30 days.

Reinhardt’s mother, Laura Wilson, attended Laughlin’s sentencing with hopes of reading a statement she had prepared. Laughlin and his attorney objected to the move before the judge ultimately ruled state law didn’t allow for Wilson, or Austin’s mother Paula, to openly weigh in during the hearing.

“There’s no closure at all,” Wilson said. “If (Laughlin) had an ounce of remorse he would have had us stand up and have us read our statements.”

Laughlin declined to comment on the outcome of the case when reached by phone late Tuesday.

“I don’t want to jeopardize anything,” he said.