Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Breaking News

April 5, 2013

Driver admits his guilt in girl’s death

GOSHEN — The driver charged in connection with a toddler’s May 2011 death in Goshen pleaded guilty in Elkhart County Superior Court 3 Thursday.

Daniel Pennington, 32, of North Second Street, Elkhart, pleaded guilty to a Class B felony charge of neglect of a dependent and a Class D felony charge of obstruction of justice.

Pennington admitted his guilt without benefit of a plea deal. His sentence will be left up to Judge George Biddlecome. The Class B felony carries a six-to 20-year sentence, and the D felony a term of from six months to three years.

Nearly two years ago, 19-month-old Mariah Gibson was the backseat passenger in a Jeep Cherokee SUV driven by Pennington. The girl’s mother, Mande Turner-Berger, was the front seat passenger.

Statements in court Thursday indicated Gibson wasn’t in a proper child restraint. The girl fell from the SUV as Pennington was making a left turn.

Turner-Berger initially told police her daughter had been struck by a car in a hit-and-run crash at Eighth and Bridge streets, and that she had carried the girl to a nearby home. Residents there called 911.

Gibson was taken to IU Health Goshen Hospital, where she was pronounced dead of a head injury.

Investigators determined that Turner-Berger had misled police. She later pleaded guilty to felony charges of neglect of a dependent and obstruction of justice.

Turner-Berger was sentenced to five years in the state Department of Correction. She was also sentenced to serve 10 years on probation, during which time she’s not allowed to have direct care responsibility of a child younger than 12 years old — including her surviving children.

In court Thursday, Pennington admitted to driving the SUV and having Gibson in his care. He also admitted to misleading police during the investigation.

Pennington is scheduled to be sentenced May 2.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

I think it’s a good idea to feed all the students free of charge
I think those who can afford it should pay for their school meals
I think all students should be required to pay for their school meals
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