For so many months I have thought about all the things I would say when my opportunity came to address the court about this debilitating, to most inconceivable loss. I thought I knew exactly what I was going to say…until I actually sat down to write this. Suddenly, my head is flooded with every single detail of the night my life and the life of my family would forever be changed. So, the only thing I know to do to help others understand the depths of our pain is to write some of those details to describe what we have suffered because of the heinous act of the defendant.
Kassidy’s had her first child at the age of 16, a little boy named Bradlee. Bradlee lived with us while Kassidy and Will worked on getting their lives together. They had many obstacles to overcome, but they were starting to overcome them and they were turning their lives around. They both held down full time jobs (Will had two full time jobs and was about to start a third) and they helped provide for Bradlee’s needs. Their focus had now turned off of themselves and onto Bradlee and the child they were expecting in September 2015. They were finally maturing and preparing for their new baby, as well as preparing to have Bradlee back with them full time.
It all ended the evening of October 12, 2015 when the defendant made the choice to get high on multiple illegal drugs and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. They were kids just starting their lives, they had hopes and dreams, and they had their whole lives ahead of them to achieve every hope and every dream. All of that gone in a moment, robbed from them and us because of the selfish act of the defendant.
I received a text message at 5:35pm on October 12, 2015 stating that there had been a fatal crash on Highway 13 North and that the road was going to be closed for an undetermined amount of time. Something inside me knew it was my daughter, her boyfriend, and my granddaughter. I said to my husband “Joey, it’s them…I don’t know how I know, but I know it is”. He responded with “No it isn’t Tammy, stop”. I just couldn’t shake the feeling. I knew deep in my soul it was them. I was physically sick. All the while I prayed and begged God to not let it be them.
I called Kassidy and Will’s phones probably at least fifty times – no one answered. I sent text messages continuously to their phones – no texts ever came back. I paged them – no calls were returned. I sent Facebook messages to them – no replies ever came. I began calling police departments, hospitals, and everyone that I thought might know something, anything about this crash. Every time my phone rang….I ran to it…please, please God let it be them, please let me hear one of their voices on the other end. I never did.
My husband and I continued to pray as the hours passed, still not knowing anything for sure. As I stood outside my home somewhere between 9:30pm and 10:00pm that night, two police cars pulled into my driveway. NO! I just kept telling myself to wake up because this is a really, really bad dream and I need to wake up NOW!
It was not a dream; it was a real life nightmare that was just beginning. As we sat down at the table with the officers, I could hear them talking. I just sat there starring off with tears rolling down my face. I was numb, yet I could feel my heart shattering into a million pieces inside me at the same time. My entire world, my life as I knew it was crumbling around me.
After the police left, my immediate thought went to my other children. My God, how are we going to tell them what has happened? And Kassidy’s son, who she dropped off at my home just minutes before the crash….how do we explain to a 3 year old little boy that his family is gone – that he can’t see them anymore – that he can’t go to their house anymore – that they will never take him to the park again? I don’t know how.
The next day as I walked up the path to the funeral home with my husband to identify their bodies, I was still refusing to believe this was happening. This had to be a terrible nightmare and somehow, some way I needed to wake up before I walked through the door. My head knew the truth, but my heart refused to accept it.
I was led to a small, cold room – to my right lay my 19 year old daughter, a little further into the room her 20 year old boyfriend, and to my left my 12 day old granddaughter. I stood there in the middle of that room looking at their lifeless, bruised, and broken bodies; sobbing uncontrollably and wishing with everything in me that this was NOT my reality.
This is my reality and I have replayed the events from that day over and over in my head. I have seen things that no parent should ever have to see. These images will forever be burned into my memory. I can, undoubtedly, say that the most horrific, gut wrenching, paralyzing, never ending pain a parent can ever experience in this life is the death of one of their own children. It is a hell that I would not wish on anyone.
I can’t help but think that if the 11/29 sentence the defendant received in April 2015 was not suspended, these three kids would still be alive today. I would be watching my daughter and William raise the children, I would be watching my granddaughter and her big brother grow up together, Bradlee would still have his family, my other children would have their sister and their niece…I could go on and on about all the memories we will never get to make…because Benjamin Franklin’s priority was getting high, not once considering how HIS choice could affect the lives of other people on the roads. His choice that evening ultimately killed three people and destroyed yet another family. Again, I pray he receives the maximum penalty today.
With all due respect Your Honor; I believe that the defendant should receive nothing short of the maximum sentence for the horrific crimes he has committed. My reasoning for this is not one of revenge or hatred, or to cause pain to anyone. My reasoning is simply this: the defendant has an extensive criminal background dating back to his teenage years and spanning several states across the country. He has no regard for the law, which is evident by his lengthy criminal record. Many of his charges over the past 20+ years are for the same crimes over and over. It does not appear that he has ever had any substantial consequences to deter his behavior, and he continues to blatantly disobey the law.
The defendant does not appear to have any regard for the lives of others. His only concern is himself. This was obvious by his behavior during every court appearance, as well as during the trial. He was seen smiling, laughing, and joking with his family and his attorney an innumerable amount of times - as if there was something funny about what was happening and what he had done. Forgive me Your Honor, but I do not find humor in any of the crimes he has committed, especially the ones that have killed innocent people. I have not seen the defendant show so much as an ounce of remorse for causing the deaths of three human beings, or for the trail of devastation he has left ours and other families in. Remorse is something you feel, but it is also something others can see and he has none. However, I do anticipate he will put on a good act at his sentencing In hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.
My family, Kassidy’s (now four year old) son, friends, and everyone else that loved William, Kassidy, and Kimberlynn have been given a life sentence because of the actions of the defendant. Unfortunately, the law does not allow a life sentence as a consequence, although he took three young lives that night.
Your Honor, the defendant is a menace to society and if he is not given the maximum sentence he will continue to put innocent people in danger and he will likely kill again. I feel that not only as a consequence for his crimes, but to protect society the defendant must receive the maximum sentence allowable by law.
Lois McMaster Bujold once said: The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them. I pray that he is not given another opportunity to destroy any more lives.
Written By: Tammy Leonard, Kassidy's Mom