A Lexington woman accused of running over her 12-year-old goddaughter last year tearfully pleaded guilty to reckless homicide Wednesday.
Jullie Belle Reese, 48, apologized as soon as she approached the podium in front of Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell.
"I'm so sorry," she said between coughs and fits of tears, at times seeming as if she was going to hyperventilate.
Reese admitted she accidentally ran over Leestown Middle School student Sierra Hubbard on June 24 after a day of playing at Constitution Park, near Northern Elementary School.
"I didn't mean to hurt that baby," she said. "I wish it would have been me."
Sierra was trying to climb into a minivan Reese was driving while it was moving about 5 mph or less, police have said. The girl fell and was hit by the van's back wheel.
Police originally said that the death appeared to be an accident but that toxicology results were pending. Toxicology reports were never made public.
On Wednesday, after Bunnell told Reese she would be tested for drugs and alcohol before sentencing, Reese admitted she used marijuana.
"What are the results of that going to be? Positive or negative?" Bunnell asked.
"I'm going to have to be honest with you. They're going to be positive because I do have a problem," Reese said.
Reese said she used marijuana but did not drink alcohol. She said she also began taking prescribed medication after being admitted to the hospital following the accident, and that she was undergoing counseling.
At times, there were lengthy pauses during the hearing while Reese collected herself. She had the most trouble answering direct questions from the judge about Sierra's death.
She wept loudly for nearly a minute after Bunnell asked Reese whether she recklessly operated the van that ran over Sierra. Almost unintelligibly, Reese apologized to the judge for breaking down.
"If you weren't upset, something would be wrong with you," Bunnell replied.
The judge then repeated the question of whether Reese was reckless when she ran over the girl.
"I didn't mean to, but yes," Reese said.
Reckless homicide carries a maximum penalty of five years. In exchange for Reese's guilty plea, prosecutors recommended she serve at least two years in prison. They objected to probation.
Reese was scheduled to go to trial next week.
Bunnell said she would make the final decision on Reese's sentence, then scheduled a hearing for July 9. In the meantime, Reese will be allowed to remain out of jail on a $2,500 bond paid last year.
Before she left the courtroom, Reese had some final words for the judge.
"Whatever prison you put me in is not going to be any worse of a prison than I put myself in," she said.