Marietta man pleads guilty in school bus crossing death

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Hunter Newman

Hunter Newman will spend the next two years in prison following a plea agreement reached Friday morning in the death of Dalen Thomas.

Newman, of Marietta, 24, pleaded guilty in Lee County Circuit Court Friday morning to culpable negligence manslaughter in the October 31, 2018 death of Thomas. Thomas, 9, was crossing Hwy. 370 in the Pratts Community to board his school bus when Newman drove through, failing to stop for the bus’ warning lights. Thomas was taken to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and airlifted to a hospital in Memphis, where he was pronounced dead.

According to the District Attorney’s office, Circuit Court Judge Michael Paul Mills Jr. sentenced Newman to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 18 of those years suspended upon the condition of future good behavior and the completion of five years of post-release supervision. The sentence was consistent with a recommendation from the District Attorney’s Office and was approved by Thomas’ parents, who were both in attendance at the plea proceedings.

At Friday’s hearing, Newman apologized to Thomas’ family, with members of Newman’s family reaching out to Thomas’ family in shared grief over the situation. Dalen’s mother, Miranda, told The Baldwyn News that her family is working through this difficult period taking inspiration from their son. She also hopes people will take note and operate more carefully around stopped school buses.

“This is a horrible situation on both sides,” Miranda Thomas said. “It was an accident that should have and could have been prevented. Dalen never held a grudge, so we are taking a lesson from him. We forgive Hunter but forgiving him doesn’t mean we will ever forget. I’m hoping this is a lesson and people will stop passing school buses.”