Woman charged in 2018 cold case death pleads guilty
A Des Moines woman charged in the 2018 hit-and-run death of a Maynard teen has pleaded guilty to a charge of vehicular homicide.
Kaiden Estling, 14, was driving his moped around 10 p.m. June 28, 2018, on Iowa Highway 150 two miles south of Fayette when he was struck from behind by another vehicle, according to a police report. Estling died at the scene.
Kelli Jo Michael, 27, was arrested almost two years later on June 26, 2020, and charged with one count of vehicular homicide and one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
Michael lived in Cedar Falls at the time of the fatal collision and worked as a traveling nurse in the area. She was driving “in a reckless manner with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, through the use of a hand-held electronic communication device to write, send, or view an electronic message while driving a motor vehicle,” according to charging documents.
Michael admitted Thursday to driving a vehicle in a reckless manner, which resulted in Estling’s death, according to court documents. Under the plea agreement, the other charge was dismissed.
Michael will be required to pay Estling’s family $150,000 in restitution, according to Iowa law and the plea agreement, and could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
April Estling, Kaiden Estling’s mother, declined to comment until after Michael is sentenced. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Michael in September, asking for compensatory damages covering earnings during Kaiden Estling’s lifetime, damages for his family’s pain and suffering, and money for Estling’s funeral expenses.
The civil trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 29 in Fayette County.