WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — The driver who fled the scene after striking two Willowick elementary students as they got off a school bus earlier this year was in court Thursday morning to change her not guilty plea.
Daila La'Shay Wilson, 18, was initially charged with failing to stop following an accident, passing a stopped school bus, reckless operation and traveling left of center.
Wilson hid her face when she first arrived in the courtroom. During the hearing, she revoked her previous not guilty plea and opted to plead no contest to amended charges.
The judge then issued the maximum punishment possible, which is 180 days in the Lake County Jail. Wilson's driver's license has also been suspended for three years with no driving privileges.
Wilson tearfully asked the judge for less jail time, but that request was denied. The judge said she would have given her more time behind bars if the law would allow it.
“I just panicked," Wilson told the judge prior to sentencing. "That is the reason of my absence when the police got there. I regret everything that took place, but unfortunately I cannot change the facts. I can only admit to the facts that are proven and take any consequences that I am given. I am glad that the children weren’t seriously injured and no one else was. Once again, I am also sorry and also embarrassed. I am also sorry to the parents for having to go through this scare. I am carrying this guilt daily with me, and I also understand how the parents could feel in this matter."
Her defense asked for no jail time because she’s joining the military and committed to begin basic training in August.
“That’s going to feel like jail,” her attorney said.
Wilson told the judge that after her time in the Army, she hopes to become a pediatrician.
"I really love kids," she said. "Sometimes I babysit my little cousins, and just for me hitting actual people, it really frightened me. I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never been in any situations like this.”
A mother of one of the victims spoke through tears at the court hearing.
“Mine and Mason’s lives have been turned upside down. I’m having trouble paying for a lot of stuff because of it. I’m missing work all the time. I could’ve lost my son and she didn’t care. She just took off. He was hit so hard that he flew from the middle of an intersection all the way to the other side. He couldn’t get up."
The mother questioned why Wilson was only charged with misdemeanors in the crime and demanded the maximum punishment of 180 days in jail with a three-year license suspension.
"She needs to know that this is a mother’s worst nightmare. This was my nightmare.”
The bus driver who witnessed the incident also spoke prior to sentencing.
“I stop longer than that when I hit a squirrel," he said. "It was ridiculous how fast she took off. She didn’t care about anybody’s life or anything else but her own life.”
Wilson turned herself in after police spent hours searching for a suspect in the hit-and-run, which happened May 13 at E. 300th Street and Barjode Road.
Her car, a red Hyundai Tiburon, was confiscated after it was found at the Cleveland Clinic downtown.
Police said Wilson admitted to hitting the 7-year-old students, and claimed she was in a hurry after receiving a call from work. She said she panicked after hitting the children, and police said she was "apologetic and scared" when interviewed by detectives.
The bus driver tried to warn the children by honking the horn as they crossed the street, but it was too late.
Neither of the students suffered any serious injuries.