One of the world's richest women will not serve any jail time for an accident authorities say resulted in the death of an 86-year-old woman.
Jacqueline Mars, a co-owner of the privately held candy company Mars Inc., entered the courtroom Thursday using a walker and pleaded guilty to reckless driving. The judge could have sentenced Mars to a year in jail for the misdemeanor charge, but three family members of victim Irene Ellisor read statements in court, forgiving Mars for the October accident and asking that she not be jailed.
The judge followed their request but ordered Mars to pay a $2,500 fine and suspended her license for six months.
"...[I]t's important for this court and the families to know that I will always live with the grief and the loss caused by this tragedy," Mars said in court Thursday.
Ellisor's family embraced Mars -- whose father invented M&M's and the Mars bar -- in a private room after the judge followed their recommendation, reported News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey.
Court papers state that Mars told a witness she fell asleep at the wheel just before the crash in Aldie, Va. The sheriff's office says Mars' Porsche SUV crossed the center line and hit a minivan carrying six people, including Ellisor, of Huntsville, Texas. She died at the scene.
Driver Ashley Blakeslee, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was critically injured and lost her baby. The other four passengers in the minivan, along with Mars, were also hospitalized.
Doctors told Blakeslee that her unborn son, whom the family named Charlie, protected her from the brunt of the impact, saving her life.
The Blakeslees call Charlie their hero.
The family had been in Virginia from Texas for Ashley Blakeslee's brother's wedding, Ellisor's family told News4.
Fewer than 600 feet from the scene, Ashley Blakeslee's husband, Travis; father, Arnold Acker; and other family members heard the crash from outside an inn where the wedding rehearsal was scheduled to begin. They ran to the scene and witnessed the emergency response.
Mars, 74, traveled to Texas Monday for a visit with the family the following day.
"I have been down to see Ashley Blakeslee and her husband and tried to begin to express my sorrow and my regret and my empathy with them,"she said.
Mars has provided financial assistance for the families that were affected, according to Mars family spokesperson Kent Jarrell.
Forbes Magazine ranks Mars as the world's seventh-richest woman. She tied for 15th place in the magazine's 2013 ranking of richest people in America with a net worth of $20.5 billion.
That was up five spots from her 2011 ranking, when her net worth was listed at $13.8 billion and she was believed to be the richest person living in the greater D.C. area.