Breaking News
More () »

Mother heading to trial as anniversary of crash that killed 3 boys arrives

Gonzales is charged with three counts of operating under the influence causing death, which each carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison if convicted.

HOLLAND, Mich. — It's been exactly one year since tragedy struck along James Street in Holland Township, when three little boys were killed in an accident after their mother lost control of their SUV and drove into a retention pond.

13 ON YOUR SIDE has been following the case since the day it happened, and there hasn't been much movement in court, but that's expected to change in the next couple of weeks. The boys' mother, 31-year-old Leticia Gonzales, is preparing for trial and facing several charges for their deaths. 

"It's been a difficult case," said Capt. Jake Sparks with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office in July of 2022 when charges against Gonzales were announced. 

On Feb. 17, 2022, 4-year-old Jerome Gonzales III, 3-year-old Jeremiah Gonzales and 1-year-old Josiah Gonzales were killed when their mother veered off the road and landed in an icy retention pond on James Street near 112th Ave. in Holland Township.

"It's all tough," said Capt. J. Douglas with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office the day after the crash, "and as tough as it is for us, it's even harder for the family."

Ottawa County Sheriff's deputies were at the scene within three minutes of the original call. When they got there, they saw Leticia Gonzales, soaking wet, screaming that her three little boys were in the partially submerged car.

"How she got out, I don't know," said Capt. Douglas. "I know she was in the water when deputies arrived, screaming and hysterical, as anybody would be."

Gonzales had escaped the SUV with only minor injuries. Her three little boys were strapped in car seats. Police and rescuers arrived and managed to pull the boys from the water that was covered with nearly eight inches of ice, but it was too late. The older two boys were pronounced dead when they arrived to the hospital, and the youngest died there hours later. 

"These deputies were heroic," said Capt. Sparks. "They got there and there was still ice on that water, but they were jumping in that pond to try to rescue those children."

It took months before any updates on the case became known to the public as investigators tried to figure out what had happened. In July of 2022, Leticia Gonzales was officially charged with three counts of operating while intoxicated causing death. Ottawa County Sheriff investigators allege that at the time of the crash, Gonzales was impaired by methadone, which is a drug used for pain relief and treatment of drug addiction.

"By the state law, it's not automatically illegal to possess it in your system with certain medications and that type of thing," said Capt. Sparks, "so we have to be able to show visible impairment by a controlled substance while the person is driving."

It is legal in Michigan to drive while taking methadone when it is used as prescribed, but can be abused like any substance. Court documents revealed that Gonzales had taken a prescribed dose of methadone at a clinic on the morning of the crash, and then was given another un-prescribed dose just a few hours before it happened. 

Local attorney Kirsten Holz explained that a court will have to prove impairment.

"There will be a very, very careful review of all the evidence in this case to determine how much had she taken and how much actually was in her blood," Holz said. 

"This isn't going to rest solely on the fact that this mom was going to a methadone clinic or coming from a methadone clinic," she added. "It's that they're going to need to prove that she was not driving safely, and that it was because of the amount of whatever drug was in her system."

Gonzales was expected in court on Jan. 19, 2023 for a preliminary hearing, but it was adjourned. She then ultimately waived that key hearing on Feb. 1, and is now heading to trial in Ottawa County's Circuit court, scheduled for Feb. 27.

Gonzales is charged with three counts of operating under the influence causing death, which each carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison if convicted.

Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.

Have a news tip? Email news@13onyourside.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Before You Leave, Check This Out