Danielle N. Kellogg, charged in a November crash that killed an infant, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree vehicular manslaughter, a higher charge than she initially faced.
Kellogg, 24, of Brant, her voice occasionally cracking, spoke softly as she stood before Erie County Judge Michael D’Amico in a Buffalo courtroom, answered his questions and pleaded guilty.
“I caused an accident,” she replied, when asked by the judge about her crime. “I caused a death. And I had a prior [conviction for driving while impaired.”
Assistant District Attorney Bethany A. Solek said Kellogg had cocaine and marijuana in her system at the time of the two-vehicle crash.
Kellogg also admitted to authorities that she drank several beers and smoked marijuana before the crash and had been falling asleep, Solek said.
Her blood-alcohol content was at least 0.13 percent at the time of the crash, well above the legal threshold, Solek said.
She faces up to 15 years in prison when sentenced on May 22.
The judge allowed Kellogg, of Brant Angola Road, to remain free on her previously posted $20,000 bail.
Her plea stems from the Nov. 27 crash she caused on Southwestern Boulevard in the Town of Brant that claimed the life of 7-month-old Baylee Marie Dion who was in the other vehicle with her mother.
Baylee’s family members filled the first three rows of the public gallery in the packed courtroom.
Baylee’s parents, Scott Dion and Denise Hine, declined to speak to reporters.
Their attorney said they would speak publicly after the sentencing.
“They’re in grief,” said attorney Stephen Boyd.
The parents, through Boyd, thanked District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III and his staff and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.
The authorities “put a ton of effort into this,” Boyd said.
Kellogg was behind the wheel of a 2003 Ford Explorer SUV registered to a Fredonia man at about 9:05 a.m. when she crossed over the center line on Southwestern Boulevard on the Seneca Cattaraugus Reservation, the sheriff’s office said.
She struck a 1997 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Hine, 31, of Hamburg, who tried to get out of the way of the oncoming SUV, sheriff’s deputies said.
The force of the impact split Hine’s car in two.
The infant, found 30 feet from the point of impact, died from blunt-force trauma, Solek said,
The crash occurred after Hine had just dropped off her 4-year-old daughter at school and was driving home with Baylee, who was strapped into her infant-carrier seat.
Hine was released from Erie County Medical Center several days after the crash.
Kellogg has a prior conviction in Chautauqua County for driving while impaired in 2009.
She originally was charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter in the latest incident.
“In the course of our investigation with the Sheriff’s Office, we determined a higher charge [was] warranted,” Solek said.
Many family members in the courtroom wore buttons with Baylee’s picture, and one wore a T-shirt with the infant’s image.
For about 10 minutes before the plea, those in the courtroom sat quietly, and Kellogg sat alone behind the defense table, looking down at the floor, while the lawyers were meeting with the judge in his chambers.
The victim’s family members would at times stare at Kellogg, but she made no eye contact with them.
At the hearing, Kellogg told the judge she sees a counselor weekly because of the crash.
“I suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome,” she said.co.