Public Safety

Woman who drove her car into frigid Cedar River waters pleads guilty to endangering children

She faces up to 10 years in prison

Emergency personnel from Cedar Rapids and Johnson County Emergency Management dive team oversee the recovery of a vehicle from the Cedar River at the Mohawk boat ramp in Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 26, 2018. The car was submerged Sunday evening, March 11, and the occupants, a woman and two children, were receiving medical care according to information released by the city of Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Emergency personnel from Cedar Rapids and Johnson County Emergency Management dive team oversee the recovery of a vehicle from the Cedar River at the Mohawk boat ramp in Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 26, 2018. The car was submerged Sunday evening, March 11, and the occupants, a woman and two children, were receiving medical care according to information released by the city of Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids woman, who drove a car with her two children into the frigid waters last March, pleaded guilty Thursday for causing bodily injuries to the 14-month-old and 12-year-old.

Alicia Christa Cole, 35, pleaded guilty in Linn County District Court to two felony counts of child endangerment causing bodily injury. During the plea, she admitted to driving her car into the Cedar River at Mohawk Park March 11.

Cole also admitted that her son, “G.T.” had injury to his abdomen and suffered hypothermia and her other son, 14-month-old “M.D.,” had a bruise to his head from the crash.

According to police, Cole’s 2006 Buick Lucerne went into the river near the Mohawk boat ramp, 101 J Ave. NE, at around 4:40 p.m. that day. The vehicle was removed March 26 by the Cedar Rapids police and fire departments, along with the Johnson County Dive Team.

Cole started crying during the hearing as 6th Judicial District Senior Judge Robert Sosalla went over the plea agreement with her.

Sosalla told her she faces up to five years in prison on each charge, and she could be eligible for a deferred judgment and probation, which will be up to the sentencing judge.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Rena Schulte, after the hearing, said that the only concession in the plea agreement was that the state wouldn’t make a recommendation on sentencing, meaning asking for prison time instead of probation. She would leave it up to the judge’s discretion.

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Schulte said Cole caused substantial harm to herself and the children but she was fortunate that so many people were around when the car was submerged into the waters that day, including people out in boats on the water. Some called 911 or helped her and the children get out of the freezing water. “They are the real heroes, along with emergency responders, who probably saved the children,” Schulte said. “They got them out and some of the witnesses gave them blankets.”

The 12-year-old told police his mother made them get in the car that day and started driving fast to Mohawk Park, Schulte said. The boy said the toddler wasn’t buckled into his child’s car seat, so he was holding him but couldn’t hold on to the toddler as the car went into the river.

Schulte said she didn’t know why Cole drove into the water that day though there are concerns she may have mental issues. She may possibly share more after sentencing.

Cole previously filed her intent to claim diminished capacity.

The boys were taken to the hospital after the incident and released. Authorities have declined to say whose care they are in.

Her sentencing is set Dec. 4.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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