PAYSON — A trial date has been set for a White Mountain couple who face charges after three children, including two of their own, drowned in Tonto Creek two years ago while out on a family outing.

Daniel and Lacey Rawlings will stand trial Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, before Judge Tim Wright after both pleaded not guilty. Daniel’s charges include three counts of reckless manslaughter and seven counts of child abuse, while Lacey was indicted on seven counts of child abuse.

The trial is expected to last 11 days.

A status hearing is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 2, at 4 p.m., and a pretrial conference for Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, at 4 p.m. Both hearings will be in Payson. They are out of custody.

The couple was arraigned before Judge Timothy Wright on Dec. 1. They appeared virtually.

On Nov. 29, 2019, Daniel reportedly drove a large military-style truck around a road closed barricade with Lacey and seven children aboard into a flooded Tonto Creek, killing two of their children and a niece.

Daniel, Lacey and four other children survived while Willa, 6, Colby, 5, and Austin, 5, drowned.

The Gila County Attorney’s Office has repeatedly stated in court documents that they will not be giving the Rawlings plea offers.

The case has taken some time to make its way through the court system as an appeal was filed regarding jurisdiction.

The case was brought before the Arizona Court of Appeals Division II, which declined to accept jurisdiction in May.

A petition for review was then filed with the Arizona Supreme Court, who denied the request, putting the case back before the Superior Court of Gila County.

Since the incident, funding has been approved to build a bridge over Tonto Creek near Punkin Center. The county is currently working through the final planning stages for the bridge with the site scheduled to be cleared by March 2022.


Alexis Bechman is editor of the Payson Roundup, a division of Kramer Media. Contact the editor at