GATES, N.Y. (WROC) —The driver in a crash that left two young children seriously injured was arraigned in Gates Town Court Tuesday afternoon where her charges were upgraded.
Letoya Palmo, 29, is now charged with two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment. There could still be more charges filed as the car was uninspected and according to Palmo had failing brakes.
Palmo was originally charged with reckless driving, moving from a lane unsafely, operating an uninspected motor vehicle, and two tickets for an unrestrained child.
Police say she lied about how the accident happened. Initially, she told them she turned around to check on her children in the back seat that were unbuckled and moving around. Now, police say she was using her phone at the time of the crash. The accusation is based on cell phone evidence that shows she used her phone to get a picture of a for rent sign.
Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode released a statement Tuesday, saying in part:
“As the result of a forensic examination of Letoya Palmo’s cell phone, the investigation has revealed she was actually taking a photograph and videotaping at the time of the accident. The night of the crash, she stated she had been distracted by turning in her seat to address her two unrestrained children who were in the back seat. Police have discovered she was videotaping a ‘for rent sign’ that was on the corner of Lyell Avenue and Rossmore Street. We also have learned the car was not mechanically safe and the operation of the vehicle was reckless due to the condition of the car.”
According to police, 2-year-old Lilliana McDonald, and 10-month-old Luke McDonald were being pulled in a wagon by their father on Lyell Avenue on July 11 when they were hit by Palmo’s car. The wagon went under the car and was dragged about 50 feet through the parking lot. Their father was not struck.
The children were taken to Strong Memorial Hospital and are expected to survive. Both children suffered major injuries and are still in intensive care. Their injuries will likely be lifelong injuries.
“She’s been crying ever since it happened,” said Palmo’s friend Krystin Blunt. She says Palmo is at a loss for words. “She’s truly sorry and remorseful for the situation because she would never want this or wish this on anybody, even an enemy.”
Police say inside Palmo’s car at the time of the crash was her 1-year-old daughter, who was in a car seat in the front passenger seat, and her two sons, ages 5 and 7, who were unrestrained in the back seat.
Palmo is scheduled to return to court at 10:30 a.m. on July 22. Bail has been set at $10,000 cash or $40,000 bond.
A Go Fund Me to help the victims can be found here.