NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Kayla Gerdes made headlines at age 18 when she ran over and killed a retired doctor. Now she is out of prison and speaking out for the first time and telling me she has changed.
"Not only did I hurt myself but I took somebody's life and that is the worst thing that you can do," Gerdes said. "Whether intentional or not, doesn't matter because that person will never come back."
That attitude is a far cry from the way Gerdes acted when she was handcuffed and arrested in April 2010. Police say she was high when she crashed a van into the Hempstead, Long Island, home of Dr. Rebecca Twine, 69, who was outside her home gardening.
It was widely reported that Gerdes said killing the doctor was no big deal because she was old. But Gerdes denies that.
"In the beginning I did try to minimize it, like 'Oh it was an accident,'" she said. "But those other things I was accused of saying I will absolutely say I did not say and they were misinterpreted."
Gerdes pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges, including felony drug distribution. She did five and a half years behind bars. While in prison she earned her associate's degree. She also joined Pastor Saroya Byrd-McKinney's spiritual healing program.
For the first time in her life she addressed childhood traumas she believes drove her to drug abuse.
Gerdes told us on "Street Soldiers" that she understands she can't undo what was done. But she believes she is being given a chance to help other women deal with their personal pain before it's too late.
She told me that she tried to apologize to Dr. Twine's family, but now she is barred from any contact by her parole conditions.
Looking to the future, she plans to get her bachelor's degree and devote her life to helping women.