Rhiannon White Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison
by Breanna Fuss, Reporter
September 25, 2013 10:17 PM
The mother of three children who died in a house fire last December has been sentenced. Rhiannon White will spend the next six years in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 13 months.
Prosecutors said Rhiannon White tested positive for methamphetamine, ecstasy, and marijuana when she was taken to the emergency room after the fire. Prosecutors also said she was having an affair with her meth dealer and smoked the drug with him hours before the fire.
Prosecution and defense attorneys painted a very emotional picture of White and what she has been going through since the fire that took the lives of her three children, 16-year-old Michael Hensley, 12-year-old Savannah, and 6-year-old Alivia Coon. Judge Bradley Zell said that his decision Wednesday to give Rhiannon White prison time was based solely on what laws she broke. Judge Zell said while what happened was truly tragic, it doesn’t change what White has done over the past several months.
Through tears in the courtroom, Rhiannon White said,” I'd like to start by saying thank you. Thank you for saving my life.”
In the nearly two hour sentencing hearing prosecution and defense attorneys recalled what happened Dec. 22, 2012 that lead to Rhiannon White being arrested.
Judge Bradley Zell said, “Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean a crime has been committed.”
In August White plead guilty to possession of a controlled substance. Wednesday Judge Zell found her guilty of just that.
But the count of child neglect she plead guilty to, Zell said there is no evidence of.
He did say what there is evidence of, is White having a drug addiction and it has affected everyone around her. Prosecution and defense attorney's agreed.
Minnehaha County Deputy State's Attorney Tom Hensley said, “By her own words, by her own heartfelt words to your presentence reporter, that she knows that her drug use had gotten to a point where it affected everyone around her.”
White’s Defense Attorney Amber Eggert said, “Rhiannon would be the first one to tell you. She has told Ms. Reker and me this numerous times, she knows she has made mistakes.”
Then through tears, White addressed the court herself.
“I have gone through many changes over the last 144 days I've spent in the Minnehaha County Jail,” said White. “The most important thing I had to overcome was to realize I am powerless over my addiction.”
Those who have known White for years said the six year sentence in the Women's Prison is fair and what White needs to sober up.
White’s Counselor from Killian Community College Gene McDaniel said, “We need to get her stronger. And this is the best way to do that.”
While White is in women’s prison she will undergo treatment for meth. Judge Zell said the prison has the one of the best programs in the state for addiction.