HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) — Prosecutors in Texas may pursue criminal charges against General Motors. On Monday, for the first time, the automaker publicly admitted its ignition switch defect is linked to the 2004 death of Van Zandt County resident Gene Mikale Erickson.
The acknowledgement is particularly important since it is something the carmaker never did when Erikson's fiancée, Candice Anderson, was convicted in his death.
CBS 11 News talked to the two heartbroken women at the center of the case.
Call it bittersweet vindication. A North Texas woman, racked with guilt for a decade over her fiancé's death, finally has her name cleared in court.
It was just last week that Erickson's family marked the 10th anniversary of his death by placing a headstone on his grave. Now, with the ruling on Monday, his mother says she's finally feeling some closure.
"We never thought today would ever happen," Rhonda Erickson said, adding, "And we're so excited that it did."
Ten years after the crash that killed her son Rhonda believes the truth is finally out. "I just had this nagging thought something was wrong with the vehicle."
In the eyes of the law it's been made clear. A judge declared Candice Anderson innocent. At the age of 21, and after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide, Anderson served five years probation.
Now the sense of relief is almost overwhelming. "It's emotional," she said. "Knowing now that it wasn't my fault."
It was Anderson's attorney, Bob Hilliard, who showed the court the letter from General Motors. "As I was walking in the courtroom, I got the letter. This morning, for the first time."
The letter admitted Anderson's Saturn Ion had a defective ignition switch – the same defect linked to 34 other deaths.
Anderson said, "I did appreciate the letter. I hated that it came so long… took 10 years to get it."
Hilliard called the letter a smoking gun and told the judge he wants to see the real culprits in court. "You shouldn't be shielded because you're the biggest car company in the planet. You should be just as susceptible to being prosecuted as Candice Anderson was."
Rhonda Erickson isn't sure what will happen. On Monday she just had good thoughts. Gene Mikale Erickson's nickname was Big Mike and she chuckled thinking he's still living up to it.
"He always did things big. And when I was driving home I thought, 'wouldn't it be just like Michael to eventually make something big out of this?'
Next month Erickson's family plans to gather to celebrate Anderson's innocence.
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