JOSHUA TREE — On Dec. 1, 2017, Michael Daugherty was driving his Dodge Durango on Old Woman Springs Road with his 1-year-old daughter in the back seat. A big-rig was in front of him and he decided to drive into the southbound lane to pass it. Once he merged into the lane, he saw a Chevrolet Cavalier with Krüe Karnbach, 22, and Natalie Craddock, 19, both of Landers, driving toward him. Their vehicles collided and Craddock and Karnbach were pronounced dead on the scene.
Daugherty was arrested shortly afterward and charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of felony child abuse.
On Wednesday morning, over a year after the crash, Daugherty appeared in the Joshua Tree Superior Courthouse, where Judge Rodney Cortez sentenced Daugherty to six years in state prison with credit for 314 days already served.
He had changed his plea on March 5 from not guilty to no contest to one of the charges of vehicular manslaughter. In exchange, the other charges were dropped.
“There is tragedy throughout this whole case,” Cortez said at the sentencing hearing. “Two people lost their lives.”
Cortez then addressed Daugherty, telling him he was lucky his daughter survived the crash.
He also noted that Daugherty had said some things to a probation officer that made Cortez believe he did not understand the serious nature of his crime.
Daugherty responded that when he said those things, he was not referring to the severity of the case. He understood the loss of lives was serious, he said, but he was referring the court proceedings.
“Their car came out of nowhere,” Daugherty said. “I had insurance. I was a licensed driver. I wasn’t under the influence of marijuana or any other substances.”
Despite this, Cortez said he hopes that Daugherty learns from his actions and this will be his last time in court.
“Hopefully this is it for you once you’ve served your time,” Cortez said. “I hope you recognize the impact of your decision making that day.”
Daugherty will be transferred to the California Institution for Men in Chino to serve out his sentence. He plans to join the fire camp program while incarcerated.
After the crash, Craddock’s older sister, Briana Jones, said she and Karnbach were living with their two cats in a trailer on her parents’ Landers property. “They were a very young, in-love couple,” Jones said.