- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

NEWPORT, Ind. (AP) - A western Indiana judge has rejected a man’s plea agreement in a crash that killed his three teenage passengers in 2015.

Vermillion Circuit Court Judge Bruce Stengel in Newport notified prosecutors and attorneys for Ethan N. Lee on Thursday that he would not accept the plea deal the Cayuga man entered last month.

Lee, 20, had agreed to plead guilty to three counts of reckless homicide. If his plea had been accepted, prosecutors would have dismissed criminal recklessness, false informing and other charges. His plea included requiring him to serve three years of in-home detention.

Lee’s attorney, Mark Christoff of Danville, Illinois, said Friday the judge rejected the plea agreement because Marion County community corrections officials in Indianapolis found that Lee was not eligible for its home detention program, apparently because of the distance between Vermillion and Marion counties.

The counties are separated by three counties and Christoff said it’s “much easier” for community corrections officials to oversee people on home detention if the two counties involved are contiguous.

He said he’s exploring the option of reaching another plea deal with prosecutors for Lee, whose jury trial is now set for July 10.

Prosecutors said Lee was driving recklessly in January 2015 when his pickup truck crashed into an office building in Cayuga, about 35 miles north of Terre Haute. The crash killed 18-year-old Annie Clark and 16-year-old Caroline Clark, sisters from Muncie, and 18-year-old Braeden Hollowell of Cayuga.

State Police have said he was driving as fast as 87 mph in a 25 mph zone when he lost control of his vehicle.

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