A question posed recently in a crowded Ellis County courtroom deserved an answer: “What kind of a person runs over a human being in broad daylight and continues driving as if nothing ever happened?”
As it was asked in a victim-impact statement — merely read into the official proceedings — no response was required. And certainly nothing was offered to the family of the late John Befort, killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2015, during the sentencing phase in the trials of Holliann Stramel and Trevor Calvin.
In fact, the victim’s family likely had another question to ask after hearing what the pair’s punishment would be: “What kind of a judicial system allows a person to run over a human being in broad daylight, continue driving as if nothing ever happened, and only have to spend a few weekends in jail?”
Befort’s family likely won’t get an answer for that one, either.
But they should.
Because there is something awry with state laws that only allow a maximum sentence of a year in the county jail and a fine of $25,000 for vehicular homicide. Likewise, it doesn’t appear just how both Stramel and Calvin will end up serving only one-sixth of that maximum — and even that will be completed on weekends. Their respective 60 days jail time needs to be served in minimum 48-hour increments.
To be accurate, there were additional components of the sentence delivered by District Judge Glenn Braun. Stramel, the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed Befort, will have house arrest for one year house arrest, will spend nearly four years on probation, was fined $25,000. Calvin, who was charged with helping cover up the crime, also received probation for 28 months.
We realize both perpetrators pleaded no contest to the charges and also reached plea agreements with the Ellis County district attorney.
But they ran over a human being in broad daylight — and drove away as if nothing happened. As trial testimony revealed, the pair even went out drinking that night as if nothing happened. And they took the truck damaged in the accident to Colorado in an attempt to get it fixed — in order to pretend as if nothing happened.
Something did happen on a rural Ellis County road before night fell on July 18, 2015. John Befort, 67, was struck while taking his daily walk — and left to die on the side of the road. The retired farmer and stockman, a 1966 Hays High School graduate, was taken from his parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and friends.
The scales of justice do not appear to be balanced as Befort lies permanently in Mount Allen Cemetery, while those responsible for killing him have to spend a few weekends in the county jail.
We share in the widespread outrage expressed by many in this community that punishment appeared little more than a slap on the wrist. The time does not come close to matching the crime.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry