Amanda Hawkins, the Kerrville woman convicted of causing the 2017 hot-car deaths of her two daughters, has lost her appeal.
Hawkins, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2018, had filed an appeal claiming her confession was illegally obtained, her charges were improper and the sentencing exceeded what was legally allowed. But in a ruling issued Thursday, a panel of judges on the Thirteenth Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments that District Judge N. Keith Williams issued in 2018 following Hawkin’s guilty pleas.
Hawkins’s court-appointed attorney, Kurtis Rudkin, argued that investigators didn’t stop their interview after she asked when she would get an attorney. Each of the two times she asked when she would get an attorney, an investigator told her one would be appointed to her and asked whether she wanted to continue to talk, according to a brief filed by prosecutors.
The appeals court disagreeing with, Rudkins, cited a 1994 case Davis V. United States, and ruled that “to trigger law enforcement’s duty to terminate the interrogation, a suspect’s request for counsel must be clear, and the police are not required to attempt to clarify ambiguous remarks.”
Rudkin also had argued that Hawkins had not been read her rights in one instance during an interview with police, and so her confession was inadmissible as evidence. The appeals court disagreed, citing a 1994 case Davis V. United States.
“Voluntary, noncustodial oral statements are admissible against an accused without Miranda or article 38.22 warnings,” states the memorandum opinion of the appeals court.
Rudkin also argued the deadly weapon finding on two of his client’s charges, which enhanced her penalty, was invalid. He argued Williams should not have considered the vehicle the kids were in as a deadly weapon. The court disagreed, ruling that a doctor’s witness testimony at trial showed that even if the windows had been rolled down in the car, the temperature would have been about 105 degrees — “an incredibly dangerous situation for children,” the doctor testified.
“We also note that Hawkins gave her keys to an intoxicated male adult, Franke, to sleep in the same car as her toddler-aged daughters,” states the memorandum opinion. “Franke could have somehow injured the girls in his state of intoxication or could have driven the vehicle away, causing a potential accident. Dr. Gebhard also testified that the children could have gotten out of their carseats and fallen onto the pavement where the car was parked or could have pressed certain buttons in the vehicle that could lead to dangerous results. Thus, even though Hawkins’s co-defendant Franke was the person ‘who rolled up the windows and turned off the car engine while her children were in the vehicle,’ the evidence still shows that the manner in which Hawkins used the vehicle caused her children serious bodily injury and death.”
The deaths of the toddlers in 2017 also led to the prosecution of Kerrville resident Kevin Franke. Prosecutors accused him of going into the car and sleeping there while the girls were in the vehicle, and of leaving the girls there. Franke has reportedly claimed that he didn’t know the girls were there. At least one local pastor has spoken out in Franke’s defense.
Although Franke was a month shy of his seventeenth birthday at the time of the toddlers’ deaths, the court certified him as an adult so he could be tried in the adult criminal justice system. Franke has been charged with eight felonies — including two counts of murder — in connection with the deaths. He has a jury trial set for March 30.
Hawkins, 22, is in the Hilltop prison unit in Gatesville. She is eligible for parole on June 12, 2027.