A Chesterfield County woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter charges in the deaths of three people who were struck while standing in a median along state Route 288 in Goochland County.
The defendant, Claire Carr, entered the pleas during her arraignment in Goochland Circuit Court. The judge scheduled a two-day jury trial for Carr that is set to begin March 21.
Asked by the judge for her pleas on the manslaughter counts during Tuesday's arraignment, Carr responded "not guilty" to each of the three charges.
Carr's attorney, Craig Cooley, appeared in the courtroom with his client on Tuesday. He declined to comment on the allegations against her following the hearing.
"We'll try it in the courtroom," Cooley said.
Tuesday's hearing marked the first time that Carr, a 53-year-old attorney, has appeared in court in the case since a Goochland grand jury indicted her last month.
Carr was driving a 2016 Audi Q5 south on state Route 288 near West Creek Parkway around 9 p.m. on June 27 when she came upon a 2015 Mercedes CLA 250 that was disabled in the left lane after striking a deer, according to the Virginia State Police.
The driver of the Mercedes, Linli Xu, a 25-year-old Midlothian woman, had gotten out of the vehicle after hitting the animal. A Glen Allen couple - Justin C. Ransone, 41, and Amy Lee Abbott, 45 - stopped in a 2006 Chevrolet Suburban alongside the right shoulder and crossed over the road to help Xu, the authorities have said.
Xu, who was five months pregnant, was standing in a grass median with Ransone and Abbott to the left of the disabled Mercedes, when Carr's vehicle approached, authorities have said. Carr, traveling in the left lane, swerved left to avoid the Mercedes and struck the three victims, according to authorities.
The hazard lights of the Mercedes and Chevrolet SUV both were flashing on a night when the weather was clear and traffic was light, authorities said in an affidavit for a search warrant.
After her indictment, Carr said in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that she could not comment on the charges she is facing.
"I am devastated over the accident and continue to pray every day for the Abbott, Ransone and Xu families," Carr said. "I can’t imagine their pain and anguish."
In addition to the criminal charges, Carr faces civil lawsuits seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages filed in Goochland Circuit Court in recent months by the families of each of the three victims.
The separate lawsuits from each family claim that at the time of the accident, Carr was driving a vehicle that was provided to her by her employer for business use. One suit claims Carr was texting at the time of the accident.
D. Michael Caudill, the commonwealth's attorney for Goochland, has declined to comment on what Carr is accused of doing at the time of the accident.
The three families filed their lawsuits in August and September, with each lawsuit seeking more than $25 million in damages against Carr and her law firm, Kalbaugh, Pfund & Messersmith.
In written responses to the civil suits, an attorney for Carr and her law firm denied the allegations against them, and argued that the defendants are not guilty of any negligence. Jury trials have been scheduled to take place in 2019 and 2020 on the civil lawsuits.