Teen pleads guilty to manslaughter
WINCHESTER — An emotional Kaila Marcy Neal pleaded guilty Thursday to killing her best friend in a June 2012 car crash on Town Run Lane in Stephens City.
Neal, 19, of the 100 block of Warbler Drive near Stephens City, was crying and shaking as she accepted a last-minute plea agreement in the case.
She was set for a jury trial Thursday on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving.
The agreement — reached between Neal’s appointed council, Christopher Collins, and Assistant Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Robbins — called for the reckless driving charge to be dismissed.
Judge Clifford “Clay” Athey Jr. ordered a presentence report in the case, and will determine Neal’s sentence at 9 a.m. Nov. 8.
Neal faces up to 10 years in prison for the felony involuntary manslaughter charge.
The victim, 18-year-old Saundra Papson of Stephens City, died June 14, 2012, at Winchester Medical Center after sustaining severe head injuries in the wreck — which according to authorities occurred at about 10:30 a.m. that day in the 600 block of Town Run Lane off Fairfax Pike (Va. 277).
She died less than a week after receiving her diploma from Sherando.
“It’s on my mind constantly — 24 hours I think of her and I just feel really bad about it all,” Neal said Thursday, her chin quivering as she tried to speak clearly. “I feel bad, and I know that doesn’t help that I feel really bad, and guys, I’m just really sorry.”
As she spoke, Neal looked back and forth between Athey and the packed courtroom full of her and the victim’s friends and family.
“I am, I’m really sorry, I apologize for it every day,” she cried.
Lt. Mike Richardson of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office previously said that the 2002 Saturn in which Papson was a front-seat passenger flipped when Neal crested a small hill at a high rate of speed and swerved to the right to avoid an oncoming vehicle.
Neal lost control of the vehicle after it left the roadway and overcorrected. The car then flipped onto its top and rolled onto its side, Richardson said.
Neal and a 16-year-old passenger in the back seat were also taken to WMC, but their injuries were not life-threatening.
The 16-year-old, now 17 — Monika Papson, a cousin of the victim — testified Thursday about the facts of the case.
She said the trio was leaving Martin’s when Neal asked Papson if they should scare her (Monika).
“Saundra hesitantly said yes,” Monika said on the stand. “[Then Neal] said, ‘you do the barn, I’ll take the back roads.’”
Monika testified that she didn’t know what that meant, but that Papson agreed and told Neal not to “go 110.”
When the three left Martin’s, Neal was driving, and once they got to Town Run Lane, she slowed down “a tad bit.”
“Saundra looked back at me and said, ‘Relax, are you ready for this?’” Monika said.
At that point, Neal accelerated and as they approached a hill, a red car was coming at them from another direction.
Monika said she thought Neal was driving 80 mph at that time.
Robbins said the posted speed limit in the area is 55 mph.
Neal swerved to avoid hitting the red car on the other side of the road, overcorrected, and they rolled several times.
When the vehicle stopped, Monika said, she and Neal were able to get out.
“I tried talking to Saundra, but I never saw her move or she never spoke to me,” Monika said, getting emotional.
Robbins said Papson’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
When Monika got off the stand, she went to her family members, hugged them and cried before stepping out of the room.
The victim’s family and Neal declined to comment after the hearing.
Neal will remain free on bond until her sentencing hearing.
— Contact Melissa Boughton at firstname.lastname@example.org