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Teen kills mother, son and unborn child in 85mph head-on collision after breaking up with her boyfriend
Dailymail – It was a moment of teenage heartbreak and irrationality that resulted in consequences more devastating than anyone could ever have imagined.
What started out as a petty tiff between two high school teenagers ended in the loss of three lives and a straight-A student with a promising future behind bars for 15 years.
Justine Winter, then 16, from Montana, was arguing with her boyfriend Ryan Langford in a series of heated text messages, which she was sending while she was driving, telling Ryan she wanted to kill herself.
Accident?: Hair stylist Erin Thompson, 35, and her son Caden, 13, died instantly in the collision which was deemed to be a suicide attempt by Justine Winter
Sentence: Justine Winter, who was 16 at the time, was found guilty of double homicide and jailed for 15 years
Proud moment: Caden was performing in a school concert and were on their way home the night he and his mother died
Police say that she was going 85mph and crossed into the on-coming lane when she had a head-on collision with 35-year-old hair stylist Erin Thompson, who was driving her 13-year-old son Caden back from a school concert.
Erin was also four months pregnant. She, Caden and her unborn child died instantly in the crash. They were travelling at just 30mph.
Winter survived but had a multitude of injuries and suffered brain damage after going through countless surgeries.
A court later found her guilty of double homicide and she was sentenced to spend 15 years in jail.
Though claiming she has no memory of the night of the accident, Winter and her defence team have always insisted it was an accident rather than a suicide attempt.
Tribute: Jason Thompson said of his wife Erin that meeting her was the ‘culmination of his dreams’ and they fell in love instantly
ABC’s 20/20 will look at the accident again and interview witnesses and experts as well as friends and relatives of both Justine and Erin for a special show aired this Friday night.
Among them is Jason Thompson, Erin’s widow, who told 20/20: ‘Right from the start, we were in love with each other. To know that I was going to be with her for the rest of my life was a blessing.
‘It was a culmination of all my dreams.’
Jason Thompson also enjoyed his new role as Caden’s stepfather.
‘Being able to help support him, and watch him grow through the years, was just really special to me,’ he said.
But Jason also had the birth of his own child with Erin to look forward to – that was until their lives were cruelly snatched from them on that foggy March evening.
Winter’s attorneys David Stufft and Maxwell Battle argued during the two-week trial in late March and early February that it was Thompson’s vehicle that crossed over into Winter’s lane.
The theory was discredited by law enforcement officials, prosecutors, multiple crash reconstruction experts and an eyewitness.
But Winter – both in a written statement and during her testimony – appeared to maintain her belief that it was an accident.
Flathead County Deputy Attorney Lori Adams opened the trial by reading selected text messages allegedly sent from Winter’s cellular phone to her then-boyfriend Ryan Langford in the hours leading up to the crash.
Among them were the words ‘It’s ending’ and ‘I want to kill myself, good bye Ryan,’ Adams said.
The final message was sent only six minutes before Winter’s car collided with Thompson’s.
The prosecution also argued that she was not even wearing a seatbelt.
After being found guilty of two counts of deliberate homicide, she was sentenced to two concurrent 30 year sentences, though the judge suspended 15 years of each.
The judge heaped praise on Erin Thompson’s family, saying their courage and compassion was remarkable.
In return to the tragic loss and emptiness in their lives, they only asked that the 18-year-old apologise.
According to the Daily Inter Lake, when given a chance, the Evergreen resident seemed to stop short of accepting full responsibility.
She instead said: ‘I’m sorry for your loss but I don’t know what you mean when you say you want me to say I’m sorry.’
Winter’s sentencing on Monday June 6 for two counts of deliberate homicide came two days after she graduated with honours from Glacier High School. She did not attend graduation because she was in jail.
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