TEEN PLEADS TO MANSLAUGHTER IN CASE WHERE COLLEGE SOPHOMORE LEAPED FROM HER CAR TO AVOID BEATING

An 18-year-old senior high-school student and aspiring singer pled guilty today to manslaughter in a Michigan court for her part in the death of Dustyn Frolka, who was a sophomore at Michigan State University (MSU). Samantha Grigg of Saline, Michigan, entered the plea with the expectation that she would provide testimony against her co-defendants, Tyrel Bredernitz (18) and a 16-year-old teenager.  Grigg allegedly was driving her Ford Explorer on Interstate 69 in Bath Township near Lansing Michigan exits along with her co-defendants when one of them started to beat on Frolka to the point where he jumped out of the speeding SUV to his death on February 15th of this year. She had previously driven the three of them to various ATMs to collect money from the victim. Police believe he was robbed of about $800.00 during the whole ordeal. Grigg was initially charged with felony murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery; although the maximum sentence for manslaughter in her case is 15 years, the Michigan State Sentencing Guidelines call for a presumed sentence of 43-84 months. Before the incident, Grigg was a singer in a band called “Undecided.” The co-defendants have further court hearings pending. All defendants before a guilty plea or jury verdict are presumed to be innocent. Saline is about 74 miles from East Lansing, Michigan where MSU is located.

COMMENT: There are different types and degrees of manslaughter. We have talked about “Heat of the Passion” manslaughter cases; such cases usually involve intentional killings which were provoked by highly emotional events. Negligent Manslaughter cases often include scenarios where a person creates an unreasonable risk– they take a chance of causing death or bodily harm; they did not intend to cause the injury. The terms often involve an element of awareness but only in an objectively grossly negligent and subjectively reckless sense. An example might be where someone is hunting deer while drunk and unintentionally shoots and kills a person. If you are driving drunk and kill someone, you would be considered grossly negligent in many jurisdictions.

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  1. UPDATE: All three defendants pleaded guilty to felonies in this case. Samantha Grigg was sentenced to 6 to 15 years; Bredernitz to 25 to 38 years; and Heim to 32 to 60 years. It is not clear exactly what the actual terms of the sentences will be, however, the lower ends appear to be the minimums.

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