Driver Who Killed Peyton Knowlton, Age Eight, Gets 150 Days in Jail

Update: Kyle Couch, 21, a onetime high school and college athlete who pleaded guilty to driving-related crimes in the 2016 accident that killed Longmont eight-year-old Peyton Knowlton, has been sentenced to a maximum of 150 days in jail plus two years of probation.

The punishment was meted out after prosecutors dropped a vehicular-homicide charge that fell apart over an inability to prove that Couch was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.

As noted in our previous coverage, on view below in its entirety, Peyton was riding her bicycle home from a May 20, 2016, event at Fall River Elementary School that celebrated the end of second grade when she was struck and killed by a pickup.

Couch, who won a state 4A wrestling championship while a student at Mead High School (a first for the institution) and went on to play football at Colorado Mesa University, was subsequently charged with vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of drugs and seven other counts.

An arrest affidavit obtained by the Longmont Times-Call the following July revealed that "marijuana evidence" was found in the truck driven by Couch, who thought he'd hit a curb when he struck Peyton.

However, Couch claimed to have last used cannabis days earlier, and his blood test registered just 1.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, well under the 5-nanogram intoxication limit under Colorado law. As such, Boulder County prosecutors ultimately dropped the drug accusations, as well as the vehicular homicide claim. Couch ultimately pleaded guilty to careless driving and having a false ID — hence the relatively modest sentence he received at a court hearing yesterday, April 4.

After adjournment, Mindy Sheltey, Peyton's mother, said, "All I'm going to have is some flowers to take to her grave and mourn with thoughts of what might've been."

Illustrating these words is the following video, shared on Facebook by a friend of the Knowlton family.

Continue for our previous coverage.

Original post, 5:35 a.m. May 23, 2016: Today, grief counselors will reportedly be on hand at Fall River Elementary School in Longmont.

The reason: Peyton Knowlton, an eight-year-old Fall River student, was struck by a pickup and killed on Friday while riding her bike home from an event celebrating the end of the second-grade school year.

At this point, there's no word about citations or charges against the driver of the vehicle in the case.

But the caring individuals who started a GoFundMe page to help Peyton's family don't want debate about what appears at this point to have simply been a tragic accident to distract from the most important matter: memorializing a bright-spirited child gone much, much too soon.

According to Fox31, Peyton and her stepfather were riding bicycles home after the event on the afternoon of Friday, May 20.

As Peyton entered the intersection of 17th and Alpine in Longmont, a truck turning right ran into her.

She didn't survive the impact of the crash.

The next day, the aforementioned GoFundMe page was started by Kandace Cahill, Kimberly Jackson and Alder Jackson Cahill, who attended Fall River with Peyton.

Here's the introduction to the fundraiser:
Yesterday, after a festive and fun End of 2nd Grade celebration at school, Peyton Knowlton was biking home with her stepdad and was tragically struck by a car. She did not survive.

Peyton was our son, Alder's, best friend. Alder always said that Peyton understood him more than any other friend had, and he felt he could simply be himself with her. Her loss is devastating to our family.

More importantly, her family is suffering and needs help. Her mother, Mindy Shetley, is the main income provider for their family. She has been supporting their family, including Peyton & her sister, Skylar, while Cody, Peyton's stepdad, was going back to school. They are bereft and, understandably, concerned about making ends meet for their family.

We've started this fundraiser in an effort to support the Shetley's during this tragic time, in hopes that their financial burdens may be relieved during their bereavement.

Please help in any way you can. Any contribution, large or small, will have significant impact and help this loving, sweet family in ways only imaginable. 
At this writing, more than $18,000 has been raised toward a goal of $25,000.

Also on Saturday, Fox31 broadcast a story about Peyton.

Afterward, Cahill and Jackson posted an update to the GoFundMe page. In it, Cahill, who appeared in the Fox31 piece, acknowledges that she hadn't personally gotten a chance to meet Peyton's parents prior to the accident and expresses regret for talking on-camera about specifics of the accident; she'd heard that Peyton fell off her bike and speculated that the driver of the truck simply hadn't seen her.

An excerpt from the update reads:
Fox31 contacted us yesterday, which was, again, strange, considering that I hadn’t even yet met Mindy & Cody. But we saw it as a wonderful opportunity to announce the fundraiser on an even larger scale and generate more widespread support for them. It was also a chance to say thank-you, and to acknowledge the spirit of love and compassion that we’ve seen in the face of this horror. Unfortunately, the piece didn’t include those sentiments, so we decided to share them here.

That news piece also seemed to highlight the speculations around the nature of the accident. In retrospect, I wish that I just said “I don’t know" rather than voicing our own speculations. That doesn’t seem fair, as we truly don’t know what happened. The only ones who do know are the parents, and does it seem like a thing to ask them at this time? That would just be cruel and unnecessary…. After all, does it matter how it came to pass? What matters is that a child is gone and the parents suffer. That is all. 
For more information about the fundraiser for Peyton's family, click here.

Here's the Fox31 package.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts