Sad

Recently a judge accepted a plea deal. A drunk and stoned young woman backed over a local cyclist, then drove away while he died without rendering aid in any way. This is not in dispute by anyone, on any side of the courtroom. She received 1 year and 10 days in jail.
 
I've tried to wrap my head around this from any number of directions, and it just makes me sad. Not for her. As far as I'm concerned, she has no place in society anymore. This is not her tragedy, as much as the defense tried to paint it that way while deflecting blame to the victim. I've harbored evil fantasies of vengeance that I'm not at all ashamed of. So much ink has been thrown out there about this that I'll just include a couple links to provide a more complete picture for those of you who haven't followed the story:

http://www.adn.com/article/20150812/prosecutor-teen-used-drugs-alcohol-hit-and-run-collision-killed-cyclist

http://www.adn.com/article/20150819/anchorage-teen-receives-1-year-sentence-hit-and-run-death-bicyclist

What this tells me is that my life is essentially worthless in the eyes of the local court system when compared to an entitled white girl with a history of substance abuse. At least now I know where I stand.
 
What tore my guts out were the victim impact statements. Jeff was me. No, by all accounts Jeff was a far better person than me. Please take the time to read the victim impact statements from Peter Van Tuyn and Madisen Dusenbury below. Imagine it was your family and friends grieving you in this way and facing this in court. You'll be gutted, too.
 
Victim Impact Statement from Peter Van Tuyn  
    Jeff’s death is a kick in the gut, for me and for many people. I first felt it the moment Steve Klosiewski and I biked onto 84th Street that morning, saw the ambulance and other emergency response vehicles in the distance, and realized that could be why Jeff was not at the meet-up for our planned ride. I have felt that kick in the gut many times since he died. I feel it now.
    Jeff and I have – had -- been friends for a long time. We used bike and ski races as an excuse to get together to bike and ski. And we did that a lot.
    Devil’s Pass. Fireweed like we’d never seen, all purple acre-after-acre, mile-after-mile, right at eye level.
    Johnson Pass in October. Clear and crisp. A lynx. We saw not one person.
    A snow bike race in Talkeetna in February. As Jeff and I finish Mike says “You idiots, why did you go for the second lap when you knew how bad it was going to be!?” Melissa smacks him on the arm and says “C’mon Mike, you know Jeff’s motto – why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot.”
   Jeff was one day older than me. We had similar experiences. We both sowed some oats, and are some of the most fortunate people we knew. We live in Alaska! We are in love with our wives. Our kids are amazing.  We have meaningful jobs, and we take pride in doing them well.
    We strive to give more than we take. We think being a good person is more important than nearly anything else.
    We shared our own jokes. He beats me in a race: “Good job old man,” I’d say. I beat him: “Well, you can’t discount the age factor.”
   It is a safe bet that all of his friends have similar stories and experiences. Time with Jeff was special.
    No more of that.
    I’m older than Jeff now.
    After Jeff died, people came from all directions to grieve together, and to support Melissa and Madisen. Why? Because he was real. He paid attention. He listened. He got to know you. He was no actor. It was never an act.
    You look around at the memorial service, make eye contact with someone you know from a different, non-Jeff, aspect of your life. “You too,” our glances would say. “You too were lucky enough to have called Jeff your friend, and have him call you his.” “Yep,” the glance would say in return, “me too.” Ten fold. A hundred fold. It still goes on.
    I am humbled by Melissa and Madisen’s strength and grace in the face of such a loss. Strength and grace that has been tested not only by the loss of a husband and a father, but by the aftermath of his death.
    So here we are. The day they have dreaded and yet also sought. The sentencing of Ms. Ellis. The last formal act they must go through related to Jeff’s death.
    Neither is na├»ve enough to think that all will be well after this date. Their pain at his loss is not tied to this case. Yet the manner in which he was snatched away from them demanded, demands, attention. He died at the edge of a park, on a dead end road, on a sunny Saturday morning. If Jeff – of all people -- was not safe going for a ride in this community, no one is safe.
    They honor Jeff by seeking to hold Ms. Ellis accountable for what she has done. Justice. Not vengeance.
    They honor Jeff by doing what they can do to limit the chances such a tragedy will befall others. Doing what they can to ensure that the direct victims of crime will be respected and considered. Make some good out of this tragedy.
    Under no circumstances did they foresee the twists and turns that this case would take. Yet they stayed focused on their goals.
    Jeff would be proud. “Why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot.” It means that you face your challenges head on. Whether you choose your goal or have one thrust upon you, go right at it, do not waiver.
    It means you need to go through the tough stuff, not around it.
    In this whole matter Bill had one thing right – Jeff would want Ms. Ellis to have the opportunity to live a productive life. Juvenile treatment though? No hit and run? One year as in the plea deal? That is not right.
The sentence before you undercuts the societal contract that is intended to protect life in our community, and it should not be sanctioned. So please don’t.
    The most direct path to rehabilitation for Ms. Ellis is to own what she did, and to own it unequivocally.
Ms. Ellis should not let fanciful and fictional accounts of what transpired that day cloud her memory. She needs to face what she has done head-on. She will be the better for it.
    If she owns what she did, and works hard to make better choices, she will come to realize that the world can be a good place for her. Instead of accepting the label “She was drunk; she killed a good man” write her own “That woman drove drunk and killed Jeff. Look what she has become! He would be so glad.”
   She can do this! She is loved. She has a strong support network. These people are here for her in her darkest hour. They are tempered hard steel for her after this experience. And if she makes the right choices others can and will be there for her too, and it may even surprise her from which direction they come.
    As for our part, those of us who don’t have as much at stake here as Melissa or Madi, or Ms. Ellis, we have choices to make too.
   Hold on to anger. Anger at Ms. Ellis, at each other, at this imperfect process.
   Or let it go.
   Let it go. This community needs to heal too.
   Channel our emotions to a better place. Be more like Jeff. Listen, appreciate, enjoy, love. Reach out.
   Encourage a friend. 
   Pay attention to a kid. Heck, just put a helmet on one.
   Watch out for each other on the roads.
   Lend a hand. Stick out a hand.
   Be passionate.
   Be compassionate.
   Go right at the tough stuff.
 
Victim Impact Statement from Madisen Dusenbury:
    My name is Madisen Dusenbury, and I am Jeff's daughter, his only child. To be able to fully articulate the impact that my father's death has had is overwhelming and impossible. No one will ever understand what it was like to have my dad as a father; therefore no one will understand what I have lost. I have written this statement in my head numerous times since Alexandra Ellis decided to get behind a wheel after a long night of drinking and partying with friends. That decision not only killed my father, but my family.
    Since his death, my father has been discussed in the spotlight as a victim of a crime, a cyclist who was killed recklessly. While both of those facts are true, and he was passionate about cycling, my father was so much more than a cyclist and his identity does not lie in being an anonymous victim. I want to briefly share with you who Jeff Dusenbury was to me – an incredible father who loved his family and his community.
    My dad’s true identity lied in the love he had for his girls. He was an amazing husband to my mom for 27 years. In his relationship with her, I learned what it meant to love someone unconditionally and whole-heartedly. He not only showed me what I want in my own marriage, but made others want and work to have the kind of relationship he had with my mom. My dad was not only our family’s protector and provider, but also a great listener to me. He allowed me to share my emotions freely and show my vulnerability.
    Whenever I felt overwhelmed my dad always asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?” I’d always answer “one bite at a time.” My dad had a lot of quirky little sayings. In fact, he was really goofy. He taught me to live and enjoy life without caring what other people thought. That’s the thing – my dad didn’t care what anyone thought about him. He was who he was because of the goodness in his heart. He didn’t have a need for material things. His friends, family and adventures were his treasures – the things he was most proud of.
As you read or hear about people’s experiences with my father, I have no doubt that not only his positive spirit but his kindness will be brought up. Whenever we were together, my dad was constantly running into friends or making new ones. He had this ability to make each person feel like they were the most important person in room. Everyone felt like my dad was their best friend, which explains why there were 1500 people at his funeral. His acts of kindness were a lifestyle and not an afterthought. He’d do kind things, not for recognition, but just because he loved people.
    On July 19, 2014, I feel like both my parents died. Having no other biological family in Alaska, my parents and I were extremely close-knit. I still lived at home with them and we were always together. It was important for us to talk multiple times daily, have family dinners and spend the weekends together. My parents were always encouraging, positive and full of love for each other, and for life. When my dad was killed, our life not only came to an abrupt halt, but I watched the liveliness in my mother's eyes die and become replaced with worry, confusion and most of all, pain.
    My heart will forever ache for her as her hurt is immeasurable, and there is nothing I can do to ease it. Not only have I lost both my parents, but I mourn the death of my own identity. I now assume the role of the parent, the glue that tries to hold what's left together.
    There are many nights when I have had to cradle my mother in bed as she weeps for my father, and many nights that I cry myself to sleep. I have lost close friends because of how I have changed as a person. I have become disconnected, distracted and angry as I fight to keep my life together and care for my mother. I struggle with my life daily as I mourn my dad while trying to fill the void left in my mom’s life.
    Fathers and daughters typically have a special relationship, and ours was no different. I was a daddy's girl; no one could understand or relate to me like he could. He was my everything, and I know he loved me with every ounce of his being. Growing up, he used to sing me songs to sleep every night. As I got older those songs were replaced with stories and fairy tales he would make up. Up until the day he died, my dad would still come give me a kiss goodnight and lay in bed next to me, and we’d talk about life until I'd fall asleep.
    Today and for the rest of my life I am missing my confidant and partner in crime. We were a lot alike- we had the same sense of humor and we bonded over our love for music and for football. For as far back as I can remember, my dad and I always had father-daughter dates on Wednesday nights. As I got older, we added weekly lunch dates to the mix. I would have never thought that our lunch date on July 18th would be our last. I never thought a lot of things that week would be our last.
    Alexandra Ellis took a lot of things from me. They are things that she will be able to have regardless of her sentence. Instead of going to the park strip to fly kites like we did every Father’s Day, this year I laid flowers at my father’s memorial. Instead of cheering on the Vikings together, I watched it alone, pathetically talking to air, pretending my dad was there and could talk back. Instead of writing an acceptance letter for the job I was offered before he died, I wrote my father’s eulogy.
    I won't have my father there to walk me down the aisle. I won't get to have that father-daughter dance that we practiced for when I was a little girl. My children will never know their grandfather. I will never go on father-daughter dates. I don't have my dad to hold my hand or tell me it's going to be okay. My dad isn't hear to protect me anymore.
    Holidays and special events now have a dark cloud that hangs over them. They serve as reminders of the piece in our life that is missing. There is no one to carve the turkey or hang Christmas lights. My birthday is this Friday, and he will not be here to celebrate with me- he will never be here to celebrate anything anymore. More importantly, I find myself feeling terrified of what the future holds. I am scared that the one person who was supposed to protect me can’t, because he was taken suddenly due of someone's recklessness and disregard for human life.
    I am haunted daily that my father was killed in such a senseless way, left dying on a road like he wasn't even human. My father was taken in a way that no one deserves. It will disturb me for the rest of my life that the State of Alaska dropped the obvious act of the hit-and-run.
    Alexandra Ellis should be taking responsibility for this. Not only is leaving the scene without rendering aid factual, but it was the intentional act. When she left my father on the side of the road without stopping or helping him, her act of killing him became intentional. Leaving him there to die was inhumane, as if his life didn't matter - as if her life was more important than his.
    Your Honor, Please think about what we are facing for the rest of our lives. My mother and I received a life sentence. There is no parole for us.
    I have no father, and my mother's husband is gone. I am left with the sole responsibility of taking care of my mother, stepping in as her husband. I am no longer able to listen to my favorite songs or go to some of my favorite places, as the memories are overwhelming and serve as reminders of what will never be. I find myself not being able to look at another father and daughter without resentment. I was not able to enjoy summer, as the bicyclists around town serve as a constant reminder that my dad should be here too.
    Nothing else caused my father's death except Ms. Ellis’ irresponsible and reckless adult decisions. The wooden post buried deep into the ground was supposed to serve as a deterrent to cars, to protect children that play in the park. That post did run into her, just like I know my father did not run into her truck. There is a credible, unbiased eye-witness who has told her account– a significant, factual account that has seemed to be overlooked.
    The juvenile system has not only failed Ms. Ellis, but it has failed our community. The juvenile rehabilitation program that Ms. Ellis has been through 3 times now, has obviously not worked. This is not only supported by the fact that she killed my dad after successfully completing rehab twice, but is also supported by the way she still refuses to take full responsibility thus far, following her third completion.
    I believe when a person is truly remorseful, they admit their wrong-doing and accept the consequences for their actions. Alexandra Ellis has not done that. Instead, she has passed the blame and thought of any excuse, dragging my family through hell for the last 13 months. That is not true remorse, and true remorse is the first step in true rehabilitation.
    In the past month, I have reached out to Ms. Ellis; I asked to meet with her, just her and I, two young adults. I wanted to give her the opportunity to express remorse and take responsibility. I wanted an opportunity to forgive her. She denied the opportunity to meet with me. This seems to be a strategic game to her, and I suppose this gives her the upper hand. But your honor, this is so much more than a game to me. I just want my dad to have justice, for his death to not be in vein, and to be able to forgive his killer so I can move forward. But, how can I forgive someone who won’t admit they were wrong?
    I’m sure Ms. Ellis will give an emotional statement; I hope it is one that she wrote, and not one that her lawyer wrote, like he has been doing for her since the beginning. I’m certain she will be apologetic and say all the right things. I just hope that it is truthful, and she isn’t pretending and acting so she doesn’t have to face the consequences.
    Ms. Ellis made adult decisions that killed my dad. Today, she is legally an adult. All along she has been my peer. She is responsible for herself, her actions and for what is said in the courtroom. I hope she realizes that she will have to live with these actions - not her parents, not her lawyers.
    More importantly, I hope that she realizes that regardless of her sentence, there is an even bigger judge in Heaven that she will need to make right with.
    Your Honor, I hope that she understands that any amount of sadness she has will never equate to the pain that I feel.
    I do not hate her. I pray for her - that one day she will realize all of this and this tragedy will change her positively from the inside out. That is what my dad would want for her. That is what I want for her.
    I pray that she learns from this. It concerns me that if that if Ms. Ellis does not take responsibility and is not rehabilitated appropriately, it will just be a matter of time before she senselessly takes another life.
    I believe that God is at work even through the toughest trials, but I still find myself asking why would God put us through this pain? Why is he putting the community through this pain? It just doesn’t seem fair. But I have faith that God is still sovereign, and in the midst of this, is still in control. Going through the legal process, the injustice in our legal system has been made obvious. I can understand the community’s outrage in how we were mistreated and how this case was mistreated. I can’t help but wonder about all the other cases - how many times has there been injustice in our state? I’ve read about cases where some serve 18 years for a less heinous crime, while some receive significantly less time for a more reckless and intentional crime.
    Your Honor, I don’t know what the correct sentence for Ms. Ellis is. However, I can’t help but think that with the attention this trial has received, it is meant to set an example for the community. We must show underage, and of age, drivers that drinking and driving is not tolerated. That there are consequences if you get behind a wheel and make deadly decisions - that it is inhumane to leave someone to die on the side of the road. We need to show our community that such reckless acts are inexcusable.
    In my opinion, this case has played out in the courtroom all wrong. It shouldn’t be a matter of Allie vs. Jeff or who can outfox who. It shouldn’t be a compromise between the defense and the prosecution. I, along with the community, are passionate and confident about the severity of this case, and that it has been handled wrong.
    Your Honor, you have the opportunity to make it as right as you can. I’m begging you, to please reclaim the justice in our state. Please don’t let my dad’s death be in vein.
    I am told that we will eventually find a new "normal,” but I still don't understand what that means. What is normal to us has been taken away by Alexandra Ellis. I know that Ms. Ellis' punishment will never fit the crime; it will never equal out to the void that we feel in our hearts. But once Ms. Ellis has served her sentence, she will go on to live her life and return to what is "normal." She will go on to get married and have children. She will be reunited with her father, who will get to walk his daughter down the aisle and be there to celebrate holidays. I will never be reunited with my father on this Earth. We will never have our life back to normal; we have been given a way worse sentence than Ms. Ellis will ever get.

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