So almost 2 years ago I lost a dear friend in a drunken driving accident. It wasn't a pretty accident, as the story went, his friend was driving, rolled the car, he was ejected and sadly, wasn't found for 36 hours. Thank God that in the autopsy they found he died on impact, thus he didn't die waiting for help to find him. I was definitely disappointed to read however, that the 'friend' driving didn't disclose he even had a passenger.
Today while on Myspace, I decided to go to my buddy's page. A place I have bookmarked since his profile is public. I've sent him messages before when random things are on my mind. Him and I have some strange ties that one day I should blog about, just in the off chance that something does happen, some people will then understand.
Anyhow I'll post the article from early October detailing the trial/sentencing of the driver of that car:
Driver gets 41 months for crash that killed friend
A 28-year-old Yakima man was sentenced Friday to 41 months in jail for killing his friend in a drunken-driving crash last winter.
Before he was sentenced in Yakima County Superior Court, Zachary Sluder apologized profusely for his actions.
"Ryan will always be in my heart. I will live for him," he said. "I miss my friend so much. I’m sorry. I loved him."
A jury found Sluder guilty of vehicular homicide last week for the death of 30-year-old Ryan Holwegner of Moxee in February 2007.
During the trial, prosecution witnesses testified that they saw Sluder driving away from a Moxee tavern in his Chevrolet Lumina minutes before the crash, with Holwegner as his passenger.
When state troopers arrived to investigate, Sluder told them he was the only one in the vehicle. Troopers suspected Sluder had been drinking, but he refused a blood test.
Holwegner’s body was discovered more than 36 hours later, 140 feet from the crash site. It was well outside the zone where debris and occupants should have been discovered. The question of who moved the body was never answered.
During the sentencing, deputy prosecutor Erika Soublet read letters from Holwegner’s family that described him as an honest, loyal person with a zest for life and a smile that would light up a room.
Holwegner’s father, Jon, wrote that he didn’t want leniency for Sluder, who has shown a lack of remorse for his actions. In his letter, he expressed hope that Sluder would turn his life over to God.
Holwegner’s sister, Tressa Stadel, said she and her family only wanted the truth. Instead, Sluder failed to stand up and take responsibility for his actions.
After Holwegner’s family members spoke, Sluder turned toward them in court and read his own statement. He described Holwegner as his hero and said he will be forever changed by this experience.
He said he had forgotten Holwegner had been in the car with him and would never have left him had he remembered.
"If I had known Ryan was there, I would have held him in my arms," he said, crying. "I’m so sorry for your guys’ loss."
Judge Michael McCarthy said he believes Sluder was so intoxicated at the time of the crash that he had forgotten Holwegner was with him. But he’s equally confident that Sluder later regained his memory and that somebody had moved Holwegner’s body.
Because of these unusual circumstances, he sentenced Sluder to the most jail time allowable by law. Sluder’s sentence could have ranged anywhere from 31 to 41 months because of his lack of serious criminal history.
During the trial, Sluder’s attorney suggested that either Sluder was the passenger or Holwegner wasn’t even in the vehicle. But Sluder’s injuries were consistent with wearing a left-side seat belt; the driver’s seat belt in his car was the only one that showed a collision-related defect.
As I read up on the trial and sentencing, I guess my mind went all over the place. I understand if you're being accoused of something you'll want a lawyer to make sure things are fair and you don't get a life sentence for something that should only be a year sentence. But really, I'd like to think that if, heaven forbid, I was in the similar situation and it was one of my many friends that had died at my hands...... I'd hope that I would do something different. Stand up, be a man, plead guilty even. I don't want off on a technicality. To me it wouldn't be far that I was still breathing while they don't get to. Somehow though, when they mention the chance the body was moved, my mind could totally see how it probably unfolded. Scared, knowing the trouble that would be coming, trying to figure a way out of it. Either drunk or the next day, doesn't matter, your mind still thinks the same if you remember it or not. So drunk you don't remember a passenger, I can understand that. Hell, I've been drunk enough to not remember a lot (Hello Vegas!) but as time goes on I remembered. Most people remember. I'd bet he remembers. Cherishing his freedom it's easier to try and supress what happened and hope you get to keep the freedom. Now, because of those choices, he loses almost 4 years of his life. Granted, that's just a small time compared to the years Ryan lost. But still. Step up, be a man, show the world you truly regret it, make amends with his family, do some work to show the world that what you say is how you feel. Don't try to hide what happened or fail to step up to the plate because your lawyer says it can hurt your appeal or because of any other reason.
Sadly, the world seems to ignore personal responsibility. There's always someone else to blaim or a reason to hide behind a wall. One may not be a bad person to do dumb and bad things. The key is fixing the bad you've caused. Hiding behind a lawyer doesn't fix anything other than make others wonder why you hide.
I know it's a touchy subject, but sometimes I just don't get people. I hope to live my entire life never in this kind of situation. Should it happen, I hope someone will point me to this blog if I miss sight of where I'm at. So I can make sure to break the mold and do right.
RIP Hoegz, it's too bad I never got the reply to the message I sent you the day you died. I was looking forward to catching up since your move to Yakima. All of us on the west side miss you.