Editorial – Family of Four Killed by Underage Drunk Driver

Last Sunday morning probably began for Mark and Amanda Roe and their two sons in much the same way that it did for other area families. The weather forecast looked great and Sunday offered a chance to go to church, run a few errands or maybe a quick drive to the park to relax before getting back to work the next day.

Clarke Daily News - Opinion & Editorial

We’ll probably never know exactly why the family of four happened to be at the intersection of Interstate 81 and Exit 317 in Frederick County at 11a.m. that morning because they were all killed in a horrific accident. The Roe’s1994 Jeep was rear-ended by an underage drunk driver in a pickup truck.

All four members of the Stephenson, Virginia family were killed.

Mother and driver Amanda Roe was 31.

Father and passenger Mark Roe was 49.

Son and passenger Caleb Roe was 11.

Son and passenger Tyler Roe was 4.

According to Virginia State Police the family died at the scene of the accident “as a result of the fire and the impact.”

And in confirmation of an all-too-familiar urban legend regarding alcohol-related accidents, the 20-year-old drunk driver who rear-ended the family’s Jeep received non-life threatening injuries.

Let that sink in for a moment; A family leaves home on a Sunday morning never to return because they are all killed by an underage drunk driver. In fact, their car isn’t even moving when the deadly disaster occurs.

Stephenson isn’t far from Clarke County. In fact, just about any person reading this article could have been stopped at the same traffic light that morning. It’s not hard to imagine the sheer terror and helplessness that any one of us would have felt had we glanced in our rearview mirror and saw that the vehicle behind us wasn’t going to stop.

And the sobering truth is that it really could have been any one of us.

The Clarke County community offers its deepest condolences to the Roe family’s next of kin and we share the loss with the Frederick County community. But in addition to our sorrow we also feel other emotions; outrage and anger.

Many of us here in Clarke County are outraged that yet again an underage drunk driver has caused such unthinkable pain and suffering through such selfish and stupid behavior.

Sure, we all “get” the fact that we can’t stop underage drinking. We all “get” the fact that alcohol is easy for underage people to buy. We all “get” the fact that lots of kids ignore the law.

What we don’t “get” is why four-year-old Tyler Roe won’t be starting Kindergarten this fall. What we don’t “get” is how a family of four, out together on a Sunday morning, winds up in the morgue rather than back home at the end of the day. What we don’t “get” is why underage individuals keep making the selfish decisions that keep causing these tragedies to occur.

Yet on another level our community does understand why these things continue to happen. They keep happening, in part, because vendors and adults can be caught supplying kids with alcohol and the penalties are a joke.

– Two weeks in jail after letting underage kids drink in your home?

– Being allowed to continue to sell liquor after multiple offenses for selling alcohol to kids?

– Major grocery store chains required to only pay a fine after repeated offenses for selling booze to minors?

Are you serious?!

There is no doubt that the ultimate responsibility for a drunk-driving accident rests with the person who decided to drink and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle. But let’s be honest; If our community’s concern with preventing future underage alcohol tragedies, like what happened to the Roe family on Sunday morning, is measured by the severity of the penalties meted out to the people who contributed to the crime, then we collectively share in the blame for the tragedy.

Until we begin to demand accountability from our legal system nothing is going to change. It’s really that simple.

But if you accept the “fact” that kids can’t be stopped from drinking, you don’t have to accept that there’s nothing that you can do about it. Raise your economic and political voice.

– Don’t patronize stores that are busted for underage alcohol sales and be sure to tell the store’s management why you won’t be buying there in the future.

– Drop an email to the Frederick County prosecutor’s office (GWilliam@co.frederick.va.us) and tell him how you feel about what happened to the Roe family.

– While you’re at it, drop Clarke County Commonwealth Attorney Suni Perka (SPerka@clarkecounty.gov) a comment on how you feel about prosecution of adults that provide alcohol to minors.

– If you suspect that underage drinking may be going on at a neighbor’s house report it to Clarke County Central Dispatch (540.955-1234). Ask to remain anonymous if you feel the need.

– Demand that public resources, especially in our schools, be allocated to education and prevention of destructive decisions by teenagers.

– Most importantly, ask your local officials to provide explanations for why these tragedies don’t result in stiffer penalties and broader arrests.

Clarke County hasn’t forgotten its most recent underage drunk-driving tragedy that played out on a lonesome stretch of highway north of Berryville during a summer night last June 19th. In the aftermath of that accident, which claimed the life of a young Berryville man, our community rallied together and voiced the message that we had had enough. Since then we have seen that some people in our community still don’t “get” it when it comes to providing alcohol to kids.

As these cases make their way through the court system we ask the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and judges to send the message that we are tired of these senseless deaths and the collective behaviors that allow them to continue.

Let’s send the message for the Roe family even though they didn’t live in Clarke County.

Afterall, they were our neighbors before they were killed.

 

 

Comments

  1. Wateredown says:

    This just reinforces what i continue to say when these threads come up.

    #1 this guy is 20 not really a kid with previous alcohol violations and marijuana charges. Being he is not a juvi he should have been locked up for the previous charges he had.

    #2 The courts fail us time and time again. We the cops arrest them over and over again… only for the courts to let them out to kill..

    #3 it would be one thing if we arrested different people every time but it is the same people time after time…

    until to courts get serious about jail time people will continue to drink and drive…

    we will arrest people and they will have say 2 previous dui’s on their record. The third is a felony so what will happen is the attorney’s will work out a deal and the drunk will get a dui first instead of dui 3rd. So in essence you can arrest a man with 3 dui first charges so he never got to the felony level.. So the next time you see one of those ” Virginia is Tough on Drunk Driver” remember it is bs…… Go to court sometime and just watch what happens to them..

  2. Sage of the Mountain says:

    Well said Ed Leonard. Best op yet. Clarke Daily News is the best.

  3. alcohol….again.

  4. Rice St. Resident says:

    Ed, good piece, but I will INSIST that you go through and change everywhere that you call this crash an accident. Boyce (the drunk driver) CHOSE to get behind the wheel with a BAC of .24. He CHOSE to use his truck as a weapon. This was absolutely NOT an accident. It was a crash, involuntary manslaughter ( although I scoff at this being the charge) or murder.

    CDN Editor: Your point is well taken and if only the young people who insist on drinking would take to the time to listen to your words tragedies like what happened to this innocent family might be avoided. In fact, this was an “accident” and that’s exactly the point here. In all likelihood the driver of the vehicle never believed that something like this would happen to him when he began drinking on Sunday morning. Many driver’s operate their vehicles under the illusion of a “cloak of invincibility” – that an accident could never happen to me – and the illusion was only exacerbated by the alcohol that had been consumed. However, the decision to take control of a vehicle is voluntary and your statement is shared by many people including the director of a national teen alcohol awareness program that I spoke to in the wake of the accident that killed Aaron Shirley. The director’s words were simple yet profound; “Drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable because the driver always makes the decision to get behind the wheel of his vehicle.”

  5. another view says:

    Starting 1 July 2011 in Virginia under-age drivers who are caught drinking and driving will automatically have their license suspended for one-year. ( http://www.fairfaxvacriminalattorneys.com/2011/06/virginia-underage-drinking-and-driving-laws-to-change-july-1.shtml )

    This law should be implemented to EVERY person, whether they are 18 or 80, who decides to drink and drive. I can hear it now, “I just turned 21, now I can drink and drive because I have a good lawyer who will get the charges dismissed!”

  6. perryrants says:

    as 13,000 people are killed each and every year in alcohol related traffic crashes, this problem IS NOT GOING AWAY until WE decide that it MUST STOP!!

    and that will NEVER HAPPEN! as evidenced by the 13,000 people DEAD drunk victims each and every year over the past decade alone!!!

    • If one is under the influence of alchohol (like a BAC of .24), how will the justice system and its punishments discourage your behavior and/or your choice to drive if your thought process is that impaired?

      • ElinorDashwood says:

        If one knows that the penalty is going to be severe, they will arrange for alternate transportation or plan to stay put, BEFORE he or she begins drinking rather than drive under the influence. That is, if said individual has an IQ of at least 80. Stellar article, Mr. Leonard.

      • Mr Mister says:

        If he would have been punished for either his first, second, third…offence instead of a slap on the wrist, then maybe this wouldn’t have happened. That’s why! It’s time for these judges to get tougher on these repeat offenders.

  7. Mr Mister says:

    Totally agree with Waterdown. The court system has failed us. Our local judges will impose a 20 year sentence , then suspend all but four months. What kind of sentence, justice or lesson is that?

  8. I agree with waterdown, So, how about holding a judge responsible if these offenders show up in court for second time after they recieve a suspended sentence. Hold the courts accountable. make the pentaly stiff enough they will think hard before suspending a sentence. If I was related to the roe family. I would ask a lot of questions about the judge who back in april suspended a two year jail term for a drug convection of MR. Boyd

    • Judges follow what the legislature gives them guidance on. Call/write your Senator/Congressperson and ask them to change the law.

      Doubt it will happen though. [redcated] You think the idiots we keep electing will change laws that favor them and their typical behaviors?

      Shoot, if we just had common sense laws, we’d have no need for an IRS, an over-abundance of gov’t. lawyers and accountants, etc. Our elected representatives write laws to keep themselves in business, that’s all. The laws are definitely not written to benefit the average citizen, much less the country as a whole.

      • Good sir, no need for an IRS? Would you care to explain how our a country would function with no taxes? That is one of the main reasons our founding fathers chose to ammend the Articles of Confederation. I realize ultra-conservatives disagree with large government, but no internal revenue? Our country has spent more than it recieves, and tax cuts, like President Bush’s wonderful idea, don’t make our lovely little deficit any smaller.

        • I did not mean no taxes. I meant that our tax laws are so convaluted and cryptic so as to keep the IRS such a large government agency. Flat tax rate for everyone, no deductions. Keep it simple.

          Criminal law is another area so full of vagueries and loopholes, in order to keep and grow the legal fields. Bad people who do bad things should be locked up or executed according to the severity of their crime. Keep it simple.

          • Hmmm... says:

            Oh yeah…because the current “3 strikes and you’re done” hasn’t already blown up the prison budget wiht paying for incarcerated men ajnd women.

  9. Gail Ann says:

    Kudos, Mr. Leonard! This is the most well written Editorial I have ever read. I live in Charlotte, NC but am visiting my Mother in Winchester. She began to tell us about that wreck when I realized where the story was going. Young Caleb was a friend of my former step-grandson. My former son-in-law had posted on Facebook, “How do you tell your 12 year old son his friend is dead?” We knew Caleb’s death was caused by someone else, but not much else. The pieces came together and that led me to your column. My heart aches for the families. To say I’m saddened would be an understatement. May the Roes, please, rest peacefully. May Justice finally prevail for repeat offender turned murderer, Mr. Boyce. I pray God give the wisdom to my former son-in-law, and other parents, to use this tragedy as a teaching tool for their children. Perhaps it can help them grow into responsible young adults. I believe The Roe Family did NOT die in vain. Other lives will, ultimately, be saved. However, the end does not justify the means.

  10. But we do know exactly why the family was at the light. Or, at least I do. I thought it was in the papers. Anyways, they were on their way to Shirley Roe’s house for Sunday lunch, like they did every week. Thank you for the article. Please pray for our family.