Charges stem from children’s misplaced trustChelsea Cadotte — a young Bayfield woman prosecutors allege flipped her SUV off the side of Highway 13 and ruined, or ended, the lives of her children — has a perplexingly beautiful Facebook page.
By: By Mike Nichols, Superior Telegram
Chelsea Cadotte — a young Bayfield woman prosecutors allege flipped her SUV off the side of Highway 13 and ruined, or ended, the lives of her children — has a perplexingly beautiful Facebook page.
At the very top is a large picture of two angelic, tow-headed little kids swinging joyously in the sunlight, their shadows beneath them and something unseen, above the frame, that they clearly had trust in up above.
Little kids are amazing that way. They have unquestioning faith in the things that hold them aloft and keep them from tumbling earthward – and not just chains on a swing set. Parents, too.
Cadotte had three kids and beside the picture of the two on the swings is another of an even younger child, smiling.
I don’t know when the pictures were taken, but the accident was on July 23 and there have surely been a lot of tears since then. Prosecutors allege that none of the children were restrained in car seats or seatbelts and that all were ejected. Her 6-year-old suffered a broken hip and a broken leg. Her 4-year-old has a traumatic brain injury and is in a coma. Her 15-year-old younger sister ended up with two broken wrists and a broken leg. Her 2-year-old was either “seated or standing in a booster seat,” but was not restrained in it, according to a criminal complaint. She is dead.
After I sent Chelsea Cadotte a message on Facebook, I received one back stating that she doesn’t think she acted recklessly. I am including virtually the entire message so readers can deduce for themselves whether she is either repentant or accepting of responsibility.
“i know it was up to me to buckle them i dont think i acted recklessly i did everything i could do at that moment to keep us from hitting a telephone poll i would have taken any of the passengers conditions over mine it was an accident that’s what alot of people don’t understand i love my kids and would have done anything for them im not a bad mom im not the only person who has had problems with kids getting out of the carseats or buckles their kids but i am the only one that crashed all i know is that I would trade anything in the world or do anything to have my life the same as it was before the crash,” she wrote.
Some folks will say Bayfield County District Attorney Craig Haukaas is cruel to charge a mother who simply failed to put her kids in seatbelts with second-degree reckless homicide and three counts of first-degree reckless injury. I, frankly, think he was more than justified.
She has a horrific driving record that includes two tickets for not buckling her kids while driving and two others for apparently not buckling herself. It’s that history, Haukaas said in an interview, that establishes the recklessness.
She was, the district attorney told me, “given multiple occasions to reform her behavior.” And she did, in fact, reform it in one way. According to the complaint, while the 23-year-old failed to buckle any of her kids into car seats or put them in seatbelts, she herself was wearing one at the time of the accident.
On some level, she apparently knew that a seatbelt made her safer, but ignored the same reality for her kids, if the complaint is accurate.
Cadotte has not yet entered a plea. If found guilty, she could eventually receive up to 100 years – although I’d wager she’ll get a couple at most.
Whatever she gets, you hope her kids, those who are still living, end up with something as well: some explanation as to how, if prosecutors are right, a young mother could profess to love her children and yet so violate their trust.
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.
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