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Utah man charged with hitting, killing 2 boys playing in corral; prosecutor says no plea bargains


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EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah ( — Criminal charges were filed Thursday against an Orem man accused of recklessly crashing into a horse corral at high speed and running over two young boys who were playing inside, killing them instantly.

Kent Cody Barlow, 25, is charged in 4th District Court with two counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt on Thursday said he only filed two criminal charges against Barlow so there would be no room for plea bargains during trial.

“Our intention is to demonstrate that we care about societal protection by charging what we need for our protection and not plea bargaining it,” he said.

Odin Jeffrey Ratliff and Hunter Charlies Jackson, both 3 years old, were playing with toy trucks and front-end loaders in a corral at the Cedar Valley Stables on May 2 when Barlow, who was “drifting” his vehicle and going 80 mph to 100 mph near 2300 North and 16000 West in Eagle Mountain, hit a bump and lost control of his car, according to charging documents.

RELATED | 2 boys killed in ‘senseless tragedy,’ police say

All three of Barlow’s passengers were interviewed by detectives, and each criticized the way Barlow was driving, the charges state. The passengers said that Barlow was “showing off” his car and that all of them wanted him to slow down.

His vehicle crashed through several fences, two horse stables and two corrals, causing a path of destruction of at least 345 feet, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Both boys were run over and ended up 75 feet from where they were playing. Both of them died instantly.

Barlow’s vehicle came to rest on its hood. He and three passengers were treated at local hospitals for various injuries, including a broken finger. While at the hospital, Barlow admitted to using methamphetamine two days before and tested positive for meth and amphetamines, according to the charges.

Leavitt, who is currently in Ukraine on a humanitarian mission for refugees, held a press conference via Zoom to announce the charges. He said his heart aches for the families of the two boys and “for our community that has once again seen the devastation of children’s lives taken far too prematurely.”

Leavitt said he filed charges of manslaughter, as opposed to automobile homicide, because of the recklessness that Barlow exhibited and because a manslaughter charge carries more gravitas.

He said he did not file charges in connection with the passengers who were injured, Barlow’s alleged drug usage or the traffic violation committed because he believes such charges would be tossed out as part of any potential plea bargain. Leavitt said by filing two counts of manslaughter, there is no room for charges to be dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea to other charges.

“We are changing the culture of criminal justice in Utah County,” he said. “We don’t intend to plea bargain any case like this.”

The maximum penalty for a second-degree felony in Utah is a term of between one and 15 years in the Utah State Prison. Leavitt said he believes that if Barlow is convicted, a judge would hand down consecutive sentences for the two charges, meaning Barlow could potentially serve a maximum of up to 30 years in prison.

Leavitt said he still intends to have the other passengers testify and prosecutors present additional evidence at trial and at a potential sentencing hearing that will address what happened to them.

As for Barlow being paroled from the Utah State Prison just seven months prior to the crash, Leavitt said, “I can’t even pretend to speak for the Board of Pardons and Parole.”

However, he again emphasized that he believes there is a culture of violent criminals serving sentences that are too short because of plea bargains.

“We believe that if you go to prison on a violent crime, you need to serve a significant amount of prison time,” he said.

Barlow was on parole at the time of the crash. In January 2021, he was convicted of theft, theft by receiving stolen property, and two counts of failing to stop for police after leading police on a chase on a motorcycle and then stealing a Draper police car in August 2019, which led to a second chase with Barlow reaching a speed of 107 mph in the stolen police vehicle, according to charging documents. He was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for the incident. Barlow was granted parole in October.

Barlow was also a parole fugitive at the time he stole the police car, according to court records. He has had several drug-related and speeding-related convictions dating back to 2014, according to court records.

In a recording of his last parole hearing held on Sept. 16, Barlow talked about how he was paroled in February of 2019 but relapsed on drugs soon after and was back in prison by August 2019 after stealing the police car. He said he lost someone who was a father figure to him after he was paroled and didn’t know how to deal with it.

“So I went back to the thing I did know, which was using drugs,” he told the parole board.

At the time of his last parole hearing in September, Barlow claimed, “I’ve been working extremely hard over this last couple of years to change and correct those behaviors and the thought patterns and processes that were ultimately corrupted within me.”

He said he was changing his old patterns and ways of thinking when it came to drug use and criminal behavior.

The Board of Pardons and Parole issued a new warrant for Barlow’s arrest on May 3, the day after the crash that killed the two boys.