Foote Pleads Guilty to Death of Haverhill High’s Rankin; Will Serve Six Months in Jail, Lose License for 15 Years

Owen Foote (right) appears in Haverhill District Court during sentencing on Oct. 8, 2019. (WHAV News photograph)

Fifty-four weeks after the death of Haverhill High School senior Jordan Rankin, Methuen’s Owen Foote has pleaded guilty to a charge of motor vehicle homicide and will serve six months in jail and lose his license for 15 years, Judge Stephen Abany ruled Tuesday.

Jordan Rankin (Courtesy photograph/Christina Firek)

During a nearly two-hour hearing, Abany heard the facts of the case that spanned the last year since police say Foote drove 70 MPH in the residential 30 MPH zone of Liberty and Crystal Streets in Haverhill on Sept. 24, 2018, leading to the death of Rankin, who lived seven-tenths of a mile from the crash scene and was on her way home from a field hockey game.

He also heard victim impact statements from Rankin’s parents, John and Cindy, older siblings Johnny and Julia, and countless family members and friends to honor the memory of the girl older sister Julia lovingly called “my sunshine.”

Owen Foote (right) shielded his face from view as Cindy (left)  and Julia Rankin addressed the court. (WHAV News photograph)

Foote sat nearly emotionless alongside his defense attorney Benjamin Urbelis as the statements were read, shielding his face from view when 25-year-old Johnny and 22-year-old Julia directed their comments straight to him. Jordan’s field hockey and lacrosse teammates and Haverhill High classmates, including best friend and neighbor Christina Firek, packed the courtroom for the hearing.

Several penned a “Dear Jordan” letter that highlighted the homecoming events the 17-year-old missed following her Sept. 25 death and talked about the “red-outs” held in her memory, illustrating to Abany how her friends are now forced to chat with her at the cemetery instead of at field hockey games.

Cindy Rankin—described by her therapist as a “constant rock” for the family—was supported by Julia as she choked back sobs to deliver her statement, which described the hopes she once had for Jordan.

“As her father and I visit the cemetery every day, we think of all the wonderful things she could have experienced, but instead we are left looking at Jordan’s name on a headstone, making sure the flowers always look as beautiful as she was,” Cindy Rankin said. “I will never forgive you, Owen Foote, for what you took from our family. Any punishment set forth from the judge is nothing compared to what you have put upon us through your reckless actions.”

John Rankin, who attended every single court hearing, just wanted to hear a single word from Foote: ‘Sorry.’ During his remarks, John Rankin visibly shook as he asked Foote’s parents what they would “want for justice” had they been in his shoes.

“Remorse is something I have yet to see from you. The many times we have been here, you stand emotionless as we hear requests to modify the conditions of your release. I feel as though Jordan’s death is nothing more than an inconvenience to your father’s business,” John Rankin said. “As if we haven’t suffered enough, we have to sit through this and listen as your parents try not to have you held accountable for what you have done.”

At the time of the accident, Foote was behind the wheel of a company truck owned by his father’s landscaping business, and several court hearings centered around modifying the conditions of his release for work purposes.

When imposing his sentence, Abany said he considered factors including punishment, deterrence and public safety—and took into account the fact that Foote, who attended one semester at Franklin Pierce College—has no prior criminal record.

“No one’s going to bring back Jordan—even if I gave him two-and-a-half years in the House of Correction—that’s not going to bring back Jordan. Quite frankly, I’m trying to save him,” Abany said. “Jail’s not a great place for anybody to be. I hope that he’s successful—that he survives it. I don’t want to send anybody away and have them come out worse than when we sent him in. That’s really the basis for my decision.”

All told, Foote’s full sentence is 18 months in the House of Correction, with six months to serve. The balance is suspended for three years. During that three years, Abany ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service at a rehabilitation clinic focusing on head trauma. He also automatically loses his license for 15 years. The maximum penalty for such a crime was two-and-a-half-years.

Twenty-year-old Foote begins his sentence on Friday, Oct. 11.

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