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Billionaire candy heiress set for trial stemming from fatal crash

By Tom Ramstack

(Reuters) - Billionaire candy heiress Jacqueline Badger Mars faces trial on a charge of reckless driving in an accident that killed an elderly woman, authorities said on Wednesday.

Mars, 74, was driving a Porsche SUV on October 4 when it crossed into an oncoming lane of traffic and struck a minivan in Aldie, Virginia, according to the Loudoun County sheriff.

A passenger in the backseat of the minivan, Irene Ellisor, 86, died at the scene. She was not wearing a seatbelt, police said.

The driver of the minivan, who was pregnant, was taken to hospital in critical condition and lost the baby she was carrying. The other four minivan passengers were briefly hospitalized.

The people in the minivan were visiting from Texas and in Virginia for a wedding.

Mars was treated and released at a local hospital.

The Loudoun County, Virginia Commonwealth Attorney's office said on Wednesday that Mars is scheduled for trial on December 5 in Leesburg, Virginia.

The charge of misdemeanor reckless driving involving a fatal accident carries the possibility of a one-year jail sentence, the Commonwealth Attorney's office said.

Mars is a one-third owner of the McLean, Virginia-based candy company Mars Inc. and the granddaughter of its founder.

Forbes magazine listed her last month as the 15th richest American with a wealth of $20.5 billion.

A spokesman for Mars issued a statement saying: "As court proceedings begin, Jacquie's thoughts and prayers remain with those who have suffered injury and loss. She regrets this tragic accident."

The world's second-largest candy manufacturer, Mars makes such well-known products as M&M candies and Snickers and Milky Way candy bars.

Mars served as food product group president of the company until her retirement in 2001. She remains on the board of directors.

Her philanthropy work earned her the 2012 Foundation for the National Archives' Heritage Award. She also serves on the board of directors of the National Sporting Library and Fine Art Museum.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna Dickson)

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