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Billionaire Jacqueline Mars Pleads Guilty in Fatal Car Crash

Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Jacqueline Badger Mars, the co-owner of the Mars Inc. candy company, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of reckless driving in connection with a northern Virginia crash that killed an 86-year-old woman.

Mars, 74, was fined $2,500 and her driver’s license was suspended for six months.

One of six occupants of a minivan struck by Mars told the court that she and others in the crash forgave Mars and asked that she not be given prison time.

“I understand that I have caused great suffering and loss,” Mars said, according to a transcript of her remarks this morning in Loudoun County General District Court. “I know I can’t go back in time. But it’s important for this court and the families to know that I will always live with the grief and loss caused by this tragedy.”

Irene Ellisor, of Huntsville, Texas, a passenger in the back seat of the minivan, was killed in the crash. Ellisor was not wearing a seatbelt, investigators said.

The driver of the minivan, Ashley Blakeslee, was pregnant at the time of the accident and incurred injuries that led to the loss of the unborn child, according to a statement read in court by Blakeslee’s mother, Sharron Acker.

The unborn child bore the brunt of the impact and “according to the doctors, he saved our daughter’s life,” Acker said, according to a transcript of her remarks.

‘Only Forgiveness’

Acker said she and others in the vehicle “have only forgiveness in our heart” for Mars and asked General District Judge Deborah Welsh “to take in consideration our feelings and not contemplate incarceration as an option.”

Mars visited Blakeslee and her husband at their home in Texas on Dec. 3 and apologized for her role in the crash, according to Kent Jarrell, her spokesman.

Acker and the other occupants of the minivan were in the area for a wedding.

Mars was traveling westbound in a 2004 Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle on Route 50 near Aldie, Virginia, on the afternoon of Oct. 4 when her SUV crossed the center line and struck Blakeslee’s rented Chrysler Town & Country minivan, according to the police report in the case.

Mars told investigators “I fell asleep” while driving, according to the report.

Mars’s attorney, Robin Gulick, told the court that there was no evidence of speeding, texting or distracted driving by Mars. There was no indication of drug or alcohol use, according to the accident report.

‘Civil Suit’

Jarrell said that “there has been no civil suit filed, but you can expect that the issue will be resolved appropriately.”

Mars “has provided assistance to the families involved since shortly after the accident,” Jarrell said.

Mars, of The Plains, Virginia, has a net worth of $23.5 billion, making her the 28th-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Most of her fortune comes from a one-third stake in McLean, Virginia-based Mars, the world’s second-largest candy maker. The closely held company’s brands include Snickers, Milky Way and M&M’s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Zajac in Washington at azajac@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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