By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – The driver charged in a “wrong-way” crash that killed four people has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in Canadian County District Court.
Moore’s Ashley Louise Ricks, 34, entered a “blind” plea to four counts of first-degree manslaughter at a Nov. 16th hearing before District Judge Paul Hesse.
Ricks, who appeared with attorney Joi Misel, waived her right to a jury trial and completed a plea of guilty summary of facts form.
“(On Oct. 17, 2020) I drove a motor vehicle on a public road while under the influence of alcohol and collided with another vehicle causing the death of Carol Jones, Laura Jones, Zachary Homant, and Lilly Homant,” Ricks wrote in her guilty plea.
Judge Hesse accepted the defendant’s plea and found her guilty.
Sentencing is set 1:30 p.m. Jan. 5, 2022. First-degree manslaughter is punishable by four years to life in prison.
The judge on Nov. 16 also found Ricks competent and court proceedings were ordered to resume in this case. An application to determine the defendant’s competency was filed June 8.
Ricks was booked into the Canadian County Jail on Nov. 17, 2020, after being charged with causing a deadly, multi-fatality crash on Interstate 40 near mile marker 120.
Assistant District Attorney Eric Epplin alleges Ricks was driving under the influence of alcohol in the wrong direction “at excessive speeds” when she caused a head-on collision with another vehicle. That other vehicle’s four occupants – two of them children – died in the crash.
Ricks was driving a 2017 Jeep Renegade east in the westbound lanes of I-40 when she collided head-on with a 2003 Hyundai heading west, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
The impact sent the Jeep into a ditch, where it overturned. The Hyundai went into the center median and burst into flames while its four occupants were trapped inside, according to the OHP investigation.
The driver and three passengers in the Hyundai died from injuries sustained in the collision: Laura Jones, Carol Jones, Lilly Homant (age 8), and Zachary Homant (age 12).
Witnesses had called 911 to report the Jeep was speeding and traveling the wrong way on I-40 before the fatal crash.
WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT
Ricks also is the defendant in an auto negligence lawsuit filed April 8 in Canadian County District Court.
Sam Homant, the father of the two children killed in the I-40 traffic collision, is plaintiff in the civil suit claiming wrongful death and loss of parental consortium.
Homant’s children – ages 8 and 12 – “were killed as a direct result” of Ricks’ negligence, according to the suit.
The victims’ father has “suffered the loss of companionship with his minor children” and “emotional trauma and pain” because of their deaths, the petition reads.
The defendant’s actions were “grossly negligent” and “without due regard” for the rights of others, according to the lawsuit.
Homant, represented by attorney Bryan G. Garrett, is seeking punitive damages. The case is pending.