Michael Joseph Whitton, who is charged with killing two children and injuring another by ramming into them with his car, is so "very, very distraught" over what happened that his lawyer says he fears for Whitton's mental state.
Attorney Stan Adams said Thursday that Whitton was so tearful and upset during a jail visit that Adams chose not to discuss the details of the incident with Whitton.
Whitton, 19, made an initial appearance before 3rd District Judge Sheila McCleve Thursday through a video hookup with the Salt Lake County Jail. His case has been assigned to 3rd District Judge Ann Boyden. His next court appearance is Oct. 20.
Adams did not say he was happy his client was in jail. But Adams did say that — for now — it is good that Whitton is "protected not only from himself but others" by being housed in the jail's mental health unit.
"He's very, very distraught about this situation," Adams said after the hearing. "I know he is sincerely concerned about the victims."
Whitton is charged with two second-degree felony counts of automobile homicide; one third-degree felony count of driving under the influence; and a class B misdemeanor count of failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
Court documents allege that Whitton was driving south on 1300 West (near 6615 South) in Taylorsville on Sept. 18 when his vehicle crossed the median, went into oncoming traffic, then jumped the curb and veered into the driveway of a home, hitting three children who were playing there.
Jorge Almeida-Robles, 9, and his sister, Yanira J. Robles, 4, were pronounced dead at the scene. Their brother, Christopher Robles, 6, was take to a hospital in critical condition but appears to be improving.
Court documents contend that Whitton had alcohol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opiates and cannabinoids in his system.
Adams said that during a jail visit with Whitton, the young man wanted to "convey his sorrow to his family" and also to the Robles family. Whitton's family also is deeply upset and wants to offer support to the Robles in their time of grief but isn't certain how to best communicate this, Adams said.
Adams said that Whitton's family has experienced "some problems" with people yelling at them and knocking on their door.
"We have to explain that they didn't do anything inappropriate," he said. "They're also victims, of a different kind. How would you feel if your son was in this situation?"