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Sierra to be tried as an adult for sisters' deaths

SIERRA: Alia Sierra arrives for her arraignment Aug. 17, 2017, in Clinton Circuit Court.

BY SHARON BARDONNER - sbardonner@ftimes.com

Alia Sierra, accused of killing two Clinton County sisters in July 2017, will be tried as an adult.

Sierra’s attorney, Stephen Knecht, argued against her being waived to adult court, but the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the waiver was in the defendant’s and the community’s best interest, according to the memorandum decision.

Sierra has pleaded not guilty to charges including reckless homicide for crashing into a house July 12, 2017, in rural Clinton County, killing 17-year-old Haleigh Fullerton and her 8-year-old sister Callie Fullerton.

Also severely injured was their mom, Bridget Fullerton.

Sierra was 17 at the time of the accident and has since turned 18.

According to toxicology tests, Sierra had a controlled substance in her system when the Honda Accord she was driving with four juvenile passengers left the roadway and crashed through the living room of Dennis and Bridget Fullerton’s home at 4954 W. County Road 300 N.

A crash reconstructionist reported that Sierra was driving 107 mph when the accident occurred. 

“Sierra’s lack of a juvenile/criminal record, her grades, her employment, her volunteer work and the negative results of drug tests from that night lead to the conclusion that she should be retained in the juvenile justice system,” her attorney argued, according to the court’s memorandum decision. “(The defense also pointed) to studies admitted at the waiver hearing that discuss brain development in adolescents and the consequences of juveniles being waived into adult court.”

Sierra graduated in May from Frankfort High School.

Evidence supporting the waiver included reports made by Sierra’s passengers. One of the teens said Sierra was driving recklessly at more than 100 mph, another had asked to be let out of the car and a third said they had asked Sierra to slow down, reported the decision document.

Other evidence reviewed included pictures and videos from Sierra’s cell phone allegedly depicting marijuana and alcohol use and Sierra aggressively accosting another teen, and how Sierra didn’t alter her lifestyle when a friend was killed in a drunk driving accident, according to the appellate court document.

The appeals court ruled, “The community’s interest in ensuring (Sierra) obtains the necessary treatment, services and consequences can only be obtained through the adult justice system which provides sufficient time and enforcement capabilities.”

Sierra is charged with two counts of reckless homicide as Level 5 felonies; two counts of causing death while operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance in the blood as Level 5 felonies; two counts of causing death while operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated as Level 5 felonies; causing serious bodily injury while operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a Level 6 felony; causing serious bodily injury while operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body, a Level 6 felony; criminal recklessness, a Level 6 felony; and criminal mischief, a Level 6 felony.