Utah County Atty. David Leavitt announces streamlined charges for man charged in toddlers’ deaths

Odin Ratliff and Hunter Jackson. Photo: Utah County Sheriff's Office

UTAH COUNTY, Utah, May 12, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah County Attorney David Leavitt on Thursday announced the formal charges to be filed against 25-year-old Kent Cody Barlow, the driver accused of leaving the roadway and hitting and killing two little boys who were playing in a horse corral in Eagle Mountain.

Killed in the May 2 crash were Odin Ratliff and Hunter Jackson, both age 3.

Leavitt appeared to reporters by way of an unstable video link from Ukraine, where he said he is working with Utah donors to help provide funds to victims displaced by the attacks on Ukraine by Russian military forces.

Leavitt said the formal charges against Barlow will be two counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. If Barlow is convicted on both counts, he will face five to 15 years on each count, which, if the judge orders they be served consecutively, would add up to 10 to 30 years.

Kent Cody Barlow is shown in this 2019 booking photo. Photo: Salt Lake County

Barlow had been booked into jail on initial charges of:

  • Two counts of automobile homicide/DUI with criminal negligence, a second-degree felony
  • Possession of a controlled substance, a third-degree felony
  • DUI with serious bodily injury by negligent operation, a third-degree felony
  • Two counts of DUI with personal injury, a class A misdemeanor
  • Reckless driving, class B misdemeanor
  • Failure to operate within a single lane, an infraction
  • Fail to obey traffic control device (stop sign), an infraction
  • Speeding (100 MPH), an infraction

Asked by reporters why no vehicular homicide, reckless driving or drug charges were filed, Leavitt said prosecutors often file a large number of charges so some can be dropped as part of a plea deal. Leavitt said he has no intention of accepting a plea deal, and conviction on the two manslaughter charges would result in the same prison term as would the longer list of charges, many of which would be tossed.

Reminded by reporters that Barlow was traveling at about 100 mph, injured himself and others in addition to killing the boys, tested positive for meth, and was on parole for an earlier violent crime at the time of the accident, Leavitt repeated his reasoning in the case.

“We are changing the culture in criminal justice in Utah County,” Leavitt said. “We try the case that’s the most serious that will encapsulate every other charge, and we don’t wait. We don’t engage in a kind of plea bargaining that would result in those charges being dismissed anyway.

“Our expertise tells us that we will be able to use the evidence of the other passengers injuries. We’ll be able to use it at trial, and it will also be relevant at sentencing. If we were to take this case to trial under all the charges, the sentence would still be the same, that being the most serious charge of secondary felony manslaughter.

“And our intention by proceeding in this way is to demonstrate that we care about societal protection by charging what we need for our protection, sticking to it, not settling by a plea bargaining, and actually proving our case. And so that’s why you see two charges,” Leavitt said. “One charge of manslaughter, one for each deceased child.”

See images from the incident below:

 

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