VALPARAISO | A Kouts woman who police say was testing the limits of a new Ford Mustang when she crashed and killed a 16-year-old passenger pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge related to the girl's death.
Appearing before Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford, Alyssa Brown, 21, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of criminal recklessness inflicting serious injury, a Class D felony.
Police allege that on Oct. 3, 2008, Brown was driving a 2008 Mustang at a high rate of speed northbound on County Road 450 East in Morgan Township when she failed to stop for a sign at County Road 500 South, crossed a set of elevated railroad tracks and went airborne before striking a tree.
Passenger Kelly Mercaldo, a Valparaiso High School student, suffered a head injury and was airlifted to a Chicago-area trauma center, where she died the following day.
In February 2010, Brown, who police say was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, was charged with felony reckless homicide as well as criminal recklessness with a motor vehicle and reckless driving, both misdemeanors.
Police say Ford officials analyzed the car's power control module and determined Brown was driving more than 80 mph and went airborne at 76 mph.
Another passenger in the car reportedly told investigators Brown said she was "going to show them what the car had," and intentionally jumped the tracks.
Bradford said Brown faces a possible penalty of six months to three years behind bars and laid out a full range of possibilities including community corrections.
Prosecutors and defense attorney Larry Rogers will argue sentencing before Bradford on Sept. 17.
In addition to the case before Bradford, Brown also has an unrelated case pending before Porter Superior Judge David Chidister for a July 2011 arrest on a charge of minor consumption of alcohol, Rogers said.