Lubbock Family "Cheated" by Drunk Driving - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/11/02

Lubbock Family "Cheated" by Drunk Driving

Kelsi Cook would have been entering her senior year of high school this month at Lubbock Cooper. "She smiled all the time, and she loved people. She left her hand prints in a lot of places," says Kelsi's mom Marla Cook.

It's a tragic story of a life cut way too short. 11 days before Christmas on December 14th, 2001, Kelsi died in a single car rollover on south Indiana Avenue or County Road 2100, near Woodrow Road. She was just one mile from her home. Kelsi was riding with another 16 year-old girl who's blood alcohol level was .049.

"She didn't come home, and the reason Kelsi didn't come home is because she made the choice to get in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking. We tell kids all the time don't drink and drive. Well, I guess Kelsi's message to everybody now is don't get in the vehicle with someone who's been drinking either," says Marla. "Kelsi trusted the wrong person that night. She trusted that person to get her home safely, and that didn't happen."

Kelsi was Marla and Danny Cook's only child. What makes their case even more heartbreaking than that, are the unusual set of circumstances. Kelsi was riding with another minor, and in the state of Texas, there are no laws on the books that are specifically written to prosecute minors under the influence who cause a fatality. There's only a law that says a minor drinking and driving is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500, and community service.

Because that's really the only law on the books, the impaired driver Kelsi was riding with was convicted of a Class B misdemeanor for wreckless driving and was given 60 hours of community service -- but she never lost her license and she never set foot in a juvenile detention center.

"The juvenile system is very lax," says Shannon Schaff, the victim assistance coordinator with Mother's Against Drunk Driving. Schaff says this is a classic case of the juvenile system lacking in strict punishment for those who commit violent crimes. "You can never make it right. You can never bring her back. But at least to the parents, let them see that there were repercussions for someone who took their daughter's life. And in this case, there were none."

As a result of all this, Kelsi's mother Marla has spent a good deal of the past eight months writing state representatives asking them to at least look at stricter punishment and stiff consequences for minors who drink and drive. She finds peace in her faith in God. "Until you're thrown in the middle of something, you go through assuming that everybody would be on your side, and that's not the case. You know, think about it. It could be you. We never ever thought it could be us. She was getting ready to start her senior year, and we don't get that. We were cheated," says Cook.

The Cooks say that they have been blessed with a great deal of support from family, friends, and their community. They encourage people to support the MADD organization. If you would like to contact MADD, you can do so by calling (806) 793-6233 or 1-800-GET-MADD.

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