Mother sentenced for recklessly injuring her child

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fairbanks woman has been sentenced to two years in prison for recklessly injuring her infant daughter last summer when she drove her car into the Chena River.

Annie Ketzler's daughter Claire survived the ordeal.

Ketzler, 26, was driving a 1997 Toyota sedan, her 1-year-old daughter strapped strapped into the back seat, when she lost control of the vehicle on First Avenue late in the night of July 6. Police had been looking for her after an apparently inebriated driver was seen striking at least one car in the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel parking lot. Officers had just spotted her and begun pursuit when the car crashed into the river.

Ketzler waded to shore from the mostly submerged car as Alaska State Trooper Larry Erickson and Fairbanks police officer Scott Adams forced open the rear passenger door, found the child through the murky water, and cut her out of her car seat.

The child responded to CPR given on shore and was at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Ketzler was indicted on charges of first- and third-degree assault and also faced misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident. In October, she agreed to plead no contest to the counts of third-degree assault and drunken driving as well as a reduced count of second-degree assault.

At Monday's sentencing hearing, prosecutor Jeff O'Bryant said Ketzler fled the sunken car instead of helping her daughter and was combative with troopers afterward.

''She swore at the troopers, she did not cooperate with them at all ... and for a period of time the drunken Annie Ketzler had forgotten about her daughter,'' he said. ''That person is scary.''

Defense attorney Lori Bodwell argued for a sentence that would allow Ketzler to enter a halfway house rather than prison. She said Ketzler had gone out of her way to seek alcohol treatment.

''She wants to get her life back, and more than that she wants to get her daughter back,'' Bodwell said. ''She knows she must remain sober to keep her daughter, and that perhaps is the greatest deterrent of all.''

Superior Court Judge Charles Pengilly said he had to consider the seriousness of the offense.

''This exceeds almost anything we've seen in terms of terms of sheer recklessness,'' he said. ''The only reason it's not a homicide is because of the quick thinking and action of the two officers that jumped in and rescued the child.''

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