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Family of Lakewood woman fatally struck in gym parking lot reacts to driver's sentencing

Katee Pearce, 36, died after she was hit by a truck driver in the 24 Hour Fitness Gym parking lot on Mar. 6, 2023
Katee Pearce.JPG
Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-09 21:08:26-05

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — One year has passed since a Lakewood woman was killed after she was hit by a truck driver in a gym parking lot. Her family spoke to Denver7 Saturday after the accused driver was sentenced this week.

Police said the crash happened as Katee Pearce, 36, was leaving a 24 Hour Fitness, located at 12039 W. Alameda Parkway, and walking to her car in Lakewood on the afternoon of March 6, 2023.

"Katee was such a bright spot in this world. She was just a light. She brought happiness to everyone she met. And we want her to be remembered that way," said Katee Pearce's sister-in-law, Katy Cannon Pearce.

The driver, identified as Eric Whittenburg, was in court on Thursday for the sentencing hearing. He took a plea deal and was convicted of careless driving resulting in death. He was sentenced to three days in jail, 288 days of community service and unsupervised probation for one year with no driving.

Family of Lakewood woman fatally struck in gym parking lot reacts to driver's sentencing

Katee Pearce's family explained why the three-day jail sentence is significant.

"That was the same amount of time that the family spent with Katee in the ICU at St. Anthony's holding her hand, trying to comfort her during this process," said her brother, Matthew Lowry Pearce. "We thought that it was appropriate that the defendant spend that same amount of time, kind of reflecting on what he did."

Defense attorneys said Whittenburg was not sleepy, on his phone or impaired at the time of the crash. They noted a massive blind spot in Whittenburg's Toyota truck. During court Thursday, Whittenburg said as a father himself, he could not fathom the grief of Katee Pearce's family and feels remorse every day.

Katee Pearce's loved ones said it's important for them to share her story to prevent a similar tragedy from shattering more lives.

"I think the judge said it best in this case, when he said, 'The word accident is too small for what happened here.' [The judge] indicated that he believed the defendant didn't do this intentionally. And we believe that as well," Matthew Lowry Pearce said.

"It's just such a tragic, tragic loss. Nothing will bring Katee back and we're all kind of going through the grieving process, but we really do hope Katee's memory spurs people to be more vigilant and more careful when they get behind a wheel," he said.

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