Daniel and Lacey Rawlings, the Arizona parents who killed two of their kids and a niece by purposely driving into floodwater, will not face jail time. 

The Rawlings were traveling home from a family friend’s house in 2019 when they took a detour to drive their truck through a flooded creek for the amusement of their children, ignoring posted warnings and barricades, according to reports

Driving what has been described in the media as a “military-style vehicle,” the Rawlings successfully crossed the creek once. When the children asked them to do it again, Daniel and Lacey drove into the floodwater at a less familiar stretch of the creek.

This time, their vehicle flooded, and three of the children were swept away in the current and drowned: 5-year-old Colby, 6-year-old Willa, and their cousin, 5-year-old Austin. The couple and four of their children escaped the creek. 

For the deaths of Willa, Colby, and Austin, Daniel and Lacey Rawlings will face no jail time
When Daniel and Lacey Rawlings drove their truck through a creek in 2019, the vehicle flooded. Their 6-year-old daughter Willa Rawlings (left), their 5-year-old son Colby Rawlings (center), and their 5-year-old niece Austin Rawlings (right) drowned. The couple has pleaded guilty to child abuse and manslaughter, but will face no jail time, a judge ruled Thursday. Photo credit: GoFundMe

The husband and wife were each charged with child abuse. Daniel, who was driving, faced additional charges of manslaughter. Both pleaded guilty in December in hopes of avoiding time behind bars. 

It worked. At their sentencing hearing on Thursday, Gila County Judge Timothy Wright placed the couple on probation, over the objections of prosecutors who sought four years in prison for Daniel. 

Two of the surviving Rawlings children took the stand to ask the court for leniency, a factor which Judge Wright said greatly influenced his decision. 

No Jail Time for Daniel and Lacey Rawlings

Nelly Rawlings, 12, and her older brother Dallan, 13, were in the truck the day two of their siblings and a cousin were swept away by flood waters. 

Each child testified at their parents’ sentencing hearing on Thursday to ask Judge Wright not to send them to prison. 

“I love everything about my parents,” said Nelly

Dallan added: “My life wouldn’t be the same without them.”

Two of Daniel and Lacey Rawlings' surviving kids asked the court not to give them jail time
Two of Daniel and Lacey Rawlings’ surviving kids asked the court not to give them jail time. Nelly and Dallan Rawlings were in the truck when two of their younger siblings and a cousin died. Photo credit: GoFundMe

Judge Wright ultimately sided with the children, sentencing Daniel Rawlings to five years probation and Lacey Rawlings to four years of the same. In issuing his ruling, the jurist said he felt jail time for their parents could ultimately be harmful to the Rawlings kids. 

“These four children have zero fault in this case, yet they carry the burdens,” Wright said, adding that he believed Daniel and Lacey were genuinely remorseful for their actions. The judge also noted that neither parent had a prior criminal history, and that both were actively involved in the Pinetop-Lakeside community where they live. 

As part of the terms of their probation, the couple will have to do extensive community service, Wright added. 

Judge Timothy Wright decided not to give Daniel and Lacey Rawlings jail time after their surviving children took the stand during the sentencing hearing to ask for leniency. The couple will now face a combined nine years of probation instead. Photo credit: Facebook

Defense attorneys for Daniel and Lacey Rawlings argued that the couple did not realize the risk they were assuming when they drove their family into the floodwater. 

Gila County prosecutor Bradley Soos, who had been recommending jail time for Daniel, dissented.

“Sometimes justice doesn’t feel good,” Soos told the court during the sentencing hearing on Thursday. 

“Judge, you can’t engage in this series of bad decisions, reflect on your decision to place these children into this situation and end up killing three people and walk out of the courtroom a free man,” the prosecutor continued. “That is not justice.”