In June 2001, Rebecca Gayheart changed the course of her life — and the lives of a young boy’s family — when she was involved in a fatal car accident. Gayheart was driving in Los Angeles when the cars ahead suddenly stopped. The actor attempted to go around the other vehicles and struck 9-year-old Jorge Cruz Jr., the Los Angeles Times reported. The next day, Cruz Jr. died from the injuries he sustained from the accident. Although it was determined that no drugs or alcohol was involved, Gayheart was charged with misdemeanor manslaughter, and Cruz Jr.’s parents sued her for “negligence and wrongful death.”
Gayheart pleaded no contest to the manslaughter charge. The actor received three years of probation, a $2,800 fine, and had her license suspended for one year, per E! News. She was also ordered to complete 750 hours of community service. Gayheart voluntarily paid for Cruz Jr.’s funeral service and hospital expenses and offered to pay for his parents’ grief counseling. However, her punishment didn’t mitigate her guilt, and it took Gayheart almost 20 years to finally open up about the tragedy.