A year after three children drowned in Tonto Creek, a White Mountains couple has pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse and manslaughter.

A grand jury indicted Daniel Grant Rawlings on three counts of reckless manslaughter and seven counts of child abuse, while his wife, Lacey Lynn Rawlings was indicted on seven counts of child abuse.

On Nov. 29, 2019, Daniel reportedly drove a large military-style truck around a road closed barricade with Lacey and seven children aboard into a flooded Tonto Creek, killing two of their children and a niece.

Daniel, Lacey and four other children survived while Willa, 6, Colby, 5, and Austin, 5, drowned.

The couple was arraigned before Judge Timothy Wright on Dec. 1. They appeared virtually.

“It has been a tough time, a rough year. They were indicted to the day when the accident occurred,” said Bruce Griffen, Daniel Rawlings’ attorney, reported on AZFamily.com.

The couple’s next court hearing is at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25 in Payson. The length of a trial and a trial date will be discussed. The judge is requiring the couple to appear in person. They are currently out of custody.

The Gila County Attorney’s Office has repeatedly stated in court documents that they will not be giving the Rawlings plea offers.

The case has taken some time to make its way through the court system as an appeal was filed regarding jurisdiction.

The case was brought before the Arizona Court of Appeals Division II, which declined to accept jurisdiction in May.

A petition for review was then filed with the Arizona Supreme Court, who denied the request, putting the case back before the Superior Court of Gila County.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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