Parents of children who died in Tonto Basin facing manslaughter, child abuse charges

The parents of the children who died after being swept away by floodwaters in Tonto Basin are facing charges of manslaughter and child abuse by the Gila County Attorney, according to county undersheriff Mike Johnson on April 5.

Daniel Rawlings, the father of the Colby and Willa Rawlings, is being charged with 10 counts of reckless manslaughter and child or vulnerable adult abuse, according the Gila County court records.

Court records show the mother, Lacey Rawlings, is facing seven counts of child or vulnerable adult abuse.

The Rawlings family was struck by tragedy when Colby, Austin - a cousin of the family - and Willa Rawlings went missing after their vehicle got stuck attempting to cross Tonto Creek on November 29.

The bodies of Colby, Austin and Willa were found over the course of the following weeks.

ORIGINAL STORY: 5-year-old boy and girl dead, 1 child missing after vehicle was washed down Tonto Creek

MORE: GCSO: Body found in Roosevelt Lake confirmed to be that of Willa Rawlings

The three children were among nine family members in a military-style truck that became stuck while trying to cross the creek.

Four other children and the two parents of four of the children were rescued.

Colby, Austin and Willa Rawlings (Ashley Doubt & the Rawlings Family)

Family members have not discussed the reason for the attempted crossing, but they and others have said people in the rural area north of Roosevelt Lake frequently go around barricades to cross the creek.

Some of those in the community where the tragedy happened agree with the charges filed against the parents.

"It’s sad that they left the scene when their children were trying to be rescued," Skip Shelton said.

But not all with the charges saying this was just a freak accident.

"I think that as long as they were being supervised by their parents and they were taking care of everything within their control sometimes bad circumstances happen in life and you know parents are going through a tragedy themselves and I don’t think legal things should happen to them if they did their part in the situation," Michael Sanchez said.

Since the tragedy, the Arizona House passed a bill to fund the construction of a Tonto Creek Bridge that will cost nearly $15 million.