CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Elderly woman charged with negligent homicide after accidentally hitting cyclist three times

Feb 15, 2022, 5:53 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am
(Stock photo)...
(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

ROY, Utah — A bizarre auto-bicycle crash last September leads to negligent homicide charges against an elderly Clinton woman.  Prosecutors say she struck a cyclist three times, although, she didn’t appear to know what she hit.

Charging documents state officers were called to an accident near Kent’s Market in Roy involving a car and a bicyclist.  When they arrived, they found the victim, later identified as Warren Watanabe, in severe pain with fresh blood on his face and having trouble breathing.

The driver, Gloria Palmer, 78, claimed she didn’t know she hit a person. She just assumed she was driving over something on the ground.  The documents state surveillance video shows Palmer hit Watanabe, then backed up to drive around what she thought was on the road.  As she drove forward, prosecutors say she drove over Watanabe again. Then a third time after she put the car in reverse. 

The third contact caused the most severe injuries, including multiple broken ribs, a damaged liver, damaged kidney and internal bleeding.

The charging documents state, “On September 25, 2021, the victim passed away due to the multiple injuries he sustained.”

Negligent homicide over an accidental crash?

If this was truly an accident, why is Palmer being charged with negligence?  Former prosecutor Kent Morgan, who is not connected to this case, says Palmer’s actions after the first crash may be the reason why she is being charged.

“Negligence, under the law, is when anybody is not being careful and something bad happens,” Morgan said.

If Palmer had immediately exited the car after the first crash to see what she hit, Morgan believes she wouldn’t have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor.  However, he believes her efforts to drive around Watanabe without verifying what happened may be the reason for the negligent homicide charge.

He said, “I don’t think the negligence is failing to keep a proper lookout.  I think the negligence is engaging in activity after accident happened.”

Morgan says the most severe punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is one year in jail. However, he doesn’t believe Palmer would get that sentence.  He says the letter of the law doesn’t allow elderly people to have leniency for their crimes, but juries and judges seem to hate sending elderly people to prison for long stretches of time.

“Are we harder on people who are younger?  Yes, we are,” Morgan said.  “Individuals who engage in activity when they’re in their early 20s are treated more harshly than people who are in their 40s or 50s.”

Watanabe’s obituary said he was born in Oregon, but graduated from Roy High School.  He was an “avid fisherman” who loved to spend time with his family and watch war and western movies.

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