PLATTSMOUTH – A Plattsmouth woman who was involved in a car accident that led to the death of a Murray man was sentenced Monday afternoon.
Ashley L. Baumgart, 22, appeared in Cass County Court on a Class I misdemeanor charge of motor vehicle homicide. She pled no contest to the charge in April.
Baumgart was driving a 2015 Ford Fusion southbound on Highway 75 just after 2 p.m. Dec. 17. Murray resident Leonard Kaffenberger, 63, was driving a 1992 Chevrolet pickup in the same southbound lane. He put on his turn signal in order to turn left into a private drive along the highway south of Rock Bluff Road. He was stopped on the highway waiting for oncoming traffic to move past his location before making the turn.
Baumgart’s car struck the rear end of Kaffenberger’s pickup. The force of the collision caused his vehicle to go into the northbound lane of the highway. Nebraska City resident Mariah Husen, 26, was driving northbound at the time. The Husen and Kaffenberger vehicles collided on the road.
Murray Rescue crews transported Baumgart to Bellevue Medical Center for her injuries. Plattsmouth Rescue transported both Husen and a 10-month-old child to University of Nebraska Medical Center for their injuries.
A medical helicopter transported Kaffenberger to University of Nebraska Medical Center for injuries sustained in the accident. He passed away at the hospital Dec. 28.
Kaffenberger graduated from Plattsmouth High School in 1972 and was a self-employed truck driver. He had worked for Zimmerman Grain Trucking, Emerson Wiles, Wiles Brothers Inc., K&G Manufacturing and Impact Manufacturing.
Many family members attended Monday’s sentencing hearing in Cass County Court. Kaffenberger is survived by his wife, two children, four grandchildren, one brother and many other relatives.
Deputy County Attorney Richard Fedde told the court family and friends had expressed their admiration and respect for Kaffenberger over the past few months. He said the accident had caused a large void in their lives.
“By all accounts he was a wonderful man,” Fedde said.
Fedde said the case was a tough one to judge because of Baumgart’s positive reputation in the community and her lack of reckless behavior. An accident reconstruction team determined she was not on her cellphone at the time of the crash and had not been calling or texting anyone. There were no passengers in the vehicle and she was not under the influence of any substance.
Fedde said Baumgart glanced out her window for a brief second before the crash. When she looked back she saw Kaffenberger’s pickup but was unable to slow down in time to avoid a collision.
“It’s hard to say what should happen in this instance,” Fedde said. “It’s a lose-lose situation.”
Baumgart gave a tearful statement to the court after Fedde finished speaking. She said she was very remorseful about the accident and had thought about it every day since it happened. She said she was devastated when she heard that Kaffenberger had passed away at the hospital.
“I made a mistake of taking my eyes off the road for two seconds and my life changed forever,” Baumgart said.
Judge Timothy Phillips said the car crash had been a tragic accident that had affected the lives of many people. He said Kaffenberger’s friends and family were left to cope with the loss of a beloved family member, and he noted Baumgart would spend the rest of her life thinking about the consequences of the accident.
Phillips ordered Baumgart to spend the next 24 months on probation. That is the maximum length of probation a judge can give a defendant for a Class I misdemeanor.
Phillips ordered Baumgart to complete 120 hours of community service by May 3, 2021. She will be required to attend a victim impact class, victim empathy course and attitudinal dynamics of driving seminar during probation. She will also have to complete counseling sessions and pay a $500 fine.
Phillips ordered Baumgart to spend 30 days in jail beginning March 3, 2021. He told her it would be a waiverable jail sentence. If Baumgart completes all of her other probation terms Phillips would potentially either waive the entire jail sentence or place her under house arrest.