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A couple who drove their family car into floodwater resulting in the deaths of three children have been spared jail after their surviving kids begged for them to come home.
Daniel Rawlings, 38, and Lacey Rawlings, 34, from Arizona, USA, purposely drove their truck into an overflowing creek which led to the tragic deaths of two of their children and their niece.
Daniel, who was driving, was sentenced to five years probation on Thursday, while mum Lacey was sentenced to four years.
They avoided prison after judge Timothy Wright listened to the devastating pleas of their other children who managed to escape the vehicle.
The couple were criminally charged after they ploughed their truck through an overflowing stream after Thanksgiving in 2019, despite there being signs and barricades warning motorists to not cross Tonto Creek.
The car was soon flooded with water which saw the couple and four of their children escape, while kids Colby, 5, and Willa, 6, and their niece Austin, 5, had been swept away before they drowned.
Mr Rawlings had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and child abuse charges, while Ms Rawlings pleaded guilty to child abuse charges, reports the New York Post.
The mum told the court that her family are still trying to recover from the devastating incident and plead with the judge to "have our family together."
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Nelly, 12, and Dallan Rawlings, 13, asked the judge whether their parents would be able to stay at home to continue raising them.
“I love everything about my parents,” Nelly told Judge Wright on Thursday.
“My life wouldn’t be the same without them,” declared Dallan.
The judge believed sending the couple to jail could have a detrimental impact on their surviving children and the kids two cousins.
Wright said that he found the couple to be remorseful for their actions and noted their lack of criminal history when making his decision.
“These four children have zero fault in this case, yet they carry the burdens,” Wright told the court.
It was reported that the parents had passed through Tonto Creek with their children safely a number of times. But on the trip back from a family member's house, their military-style got stuck in the floodwater.
The Rawlings defence attorney told the court that the couple had misjudged the potential dangers when entering the creek.
Bradley Soos prosecuting argued that Mr Rowlings had displayed little parental common sense, highlighting that the children were put in the truck without their being enough seatbelts.
"Sometimes justice doesn’t feel good,” he said.
“Judge, you can’t engage in this series of bad decisions, reflect on your decision to place these children into this situation and end up killing three people and walk out of the courtroom a free man. That is not justice.”
Austin’s mother, Lauren Johnston said she had forgiven the couple after the incident which left her daughter dead and also asked the judge to keep them out of jail.
More than one hundred people were seen outside of the courthouse, as they held placards in support of the family that read: "Rawlings Strong".
They were left elated after learning that the couple were spared jail.
Mr and Mrs Rawlings have been ordered to complete significant community service time, in addition to their probation.
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