Children deserve justice for mother’s negligenceChelsea Cadotte flipped her SUV on Highway 13 north of Washburn the other day. Her three young children and her younger sister were tossed out the windows — and in one case at least, into a very early grave.
By: By Mike Nichols, Superior Telegram
Chelsea Cadotte flipped her SUV on Highway 13 north of Washburn the other day. Her three young children and her younger sister were tossed out the windows — and in one case at least, into a very early grave.
Cadotte, the only one not ejected from the rolling vehicle, was released from a Duluth hospital after she was upgraded to fair condition. It appears her younger sister and oldest child, 6, also are going to be OK.
Her 4-year-old, Myley Gordon, was still in critical condition over a week after the accident, though. And little 2-year-old Mariah Gordon is dead.
The investigation is ongoing, but authorities don’t believe any of them were in seat belts or child safety restraints, according to Bayfield County District Attorney Craig Haukaas.
“I don’t want to comment on whether there will or will not be charges until I see the report from the State Patrol,” Haukaas told me, adding it will probably be another week before he is able to view that.
He can review something else, however.
You’d like to be able to argue that this mother’s apparent lack of regard for the kids’ safety was a one-time oversight or a simple mistake. The truth is that it took me at least two hours to go through cases in which Cadotte has been accused and make a spreadsheet of the allegations.
Cadotte, who didn’t return a call, is 23, but records suggest she has only had her license for about four years. In May 2008, when she was 19 and had only an instruction permit, she was ticketed for driving without the presence of an older adult. By then, she’d been cited at least three times for driving without a license, although at least one of those citations was dismissed.
Since mid-2008, in the meantime, she has pleaded no contest to operating on a suspended license five different times. But the real outrage isn’t that she drove without a license, registration or insurance.
The real outrage is this apparently isn’t the first time she has driven without using belts or restraints for herself and the kids. According to court records:
In June 2008, she was cited for an unspecified seatbelt violation, eventually pleaded no contest and was fined $10.
In December 2010, she was cited for driving while not wearing a seatbelt, eventually pleaded no contest and was fined another $10.
In April 2011, she was cited for a violation of child safety restraint requirements for a child under four, eventually pleaded no contest and was fined $175.
Just this past May 21, she was given three citations by the State Patrol for failing to wear a seatbelt herself while driving, failing to have one passenger over 7-years-old belted in, and failing to have another passenger under 8-years-ols belted in. She pleaded no contest to all three and was fined $170.
This isn’t normal, or incidental. We’ve had seatbelt laws in Wisconsin for 25 years now. About 80 percent of us wear them. The state DOT believes virtually all parents with kids under five use some sort of safety restraints on them. This is one of the basics of parenting right along with keeping your kids away from loaded guns and steep cliffs —for most parents anyway.
“So what?” some folks will say. A mother, they’ll argue, lost at least one child here, lost everything the little girl had been and was going to be; and that is punishment enough. You can hardly imagine somebody losing something more precious — unless you imagine being the child herself. She lost what would likely have been decades and decades of life.
The little girl deserved better, and she deserves justice.
Mike Nichols is a syndicated columnist who spent 18 years writing about Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is now a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. This column represents only his personal opinion. Contact him at MRNichols@wi.rr.com.