Parents of Arizona children killed in Tonto Basin flood plead not guilty

Dec 1, 2020, 5:00 PM
Clockwise from right: Willa, Colby and Austin Rawlings. (GoFundMe Photos/David Jensen)...
Clockwise from right: Willa, Colby and Austin Rawlings. (GoFundMe Photos/David Jensen)
(GoFundMe Photos/David Jensen)

GLOBE, Ariz. (AP) — A couple whose two children and a niece drowned in Arizona floodwaters pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and child abuse charges.

Daniel Rawlings and Lacey Rawlings were arraigned in Gila County Superior Court Tuesday, KPHO-TV reported.

Daniel Rawlings was indicted by a grand jury on three counts of reckless manslaughter and seven counts of child abuse. Lacey Rawlings was indicted on seven counts of child abuse.

The Rawlings were charged in connection with the deaths of the children after they drove through Tonto Basin floodwaters Nov. 29, 2019. Four other children who were also in the vehicle survived.

The bodies of the couple’s 6-year-old daughter and her brother and cousin, both age 5, were found in a creek after an extensive search lasting for days in the rural county.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office said barricades had been erected to warn drivers of the flood danger in the basin about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.

The couple attended the arraignment via video conference because of COVID-19 precautions.

“It has been a tough time, a rough year. They were indicted to the day when the accident occurred,” said Bruce Griffen, an attorney representing Daniel Rawlings.

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Parents of Arizona children killed in Tonto Basin flood plead not guilty