OSU Parade Crash Suspect Adacia Chambers Pleads No Contest
STILLWATER, Oklahoma - Adacia Chambers told a Payne County judge Tuesday morning she wanted to accept a plea of no contest and be sentenced to life in prison plus ten years to be served consecutively.
The judge explained that pleading no contest is the same as pleading guilty as both result in a conviction. By pleading no contest she waives her right to a trial for which her attorney was preparing.
Chambers, 26, wiped away tears during the hearing. She is accused of driving into a crowd of people at the 2015 OSU homecoming parade. She faced four counts of second degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery by means of force likely to produce death.
Also during the hearing, the district attorney moved to dismiss three of the assault counts, stating the victims were in China and could not be located.
Her attorney, Tony Coleman, said he spent the past 15 months preparing for trial - and had planned to present a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. However, he says days before jury selection was set to begin, Chambers decided she did not want to move forward with a trial.
"She absolutely under no circumstances wanted the victims and the family members of the victims to go through a trial. She did not want that," Coleman said. "This is something she felt in her mind, at least she hopes, would get the families on their way way to recovery."
Four people died in the 2015 tragedy, and more than two dozen were injured. The deceased include two-year-old Nash Lucas, Bonnie and Marvin Stone, both 65, and Nakita Prabhakar, 23, of Mumbai.
"She did not want the families to have to relive this and go through this nightmarish event ever again," said Coleman. "She wanted it to stop for them - to the extent that she could make it stop."
Coleman says he had a state medical expert evaluate Chambers' mental competence and mental health history during the trial preparations - and was ready to present the findings to a jury.
"The conclusion of his evaluation was that she was indeed insane at the time of this incident," said Coleman. "There was a time period where she blacked out."
Coleman says his expert diagnosed Chambers with Bipolar Disorder and says her family had sought treatment for her in the past. But, Coleman says Adacia's father told him they dealt with different diagnoses, different medication recommendations, and even had some facilities refuse to see them.
"They want to raise awareness to mental illness," said Coleman. "The healthcare system , specifically our mental health care system, it's broken and something has to be done."
He says the community and lawmakers need to rally together and make big changes to increase mental health care funding and availability, and not decrease it. In the past few years, many mental health providers in Oklahoma have been forced to shut down their facilities. And just last year, budget cuts caused Medicaid to cut certain mental health care benefits as well.
"We say we all want to make sure this never happens again. Well it doesn't matter what we do with Miss Chambers, that doesn't ensure that it never happens again," said Coleman. "It can insure that Miss Chambers doesn't do it again, but what about the others that remain out there?"
Coleman says he does not think prison is the right place to put a person like Adacia Chambers, but says both he and her family support her decision to accept a plea of life in prison for what happened that tragic day.
"If it means that she has to be locked up for a period of time, she obviously communicated that she wanted to accept that," said Coleman. "She believed in her defense, she believed in the defense that we put together for her, she understood what not guilty by reason of insanity entailed."