Serial DUI Offenders; what's being done about it? - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Serial DUI Offenders; what's being done about it?

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Kiley Ricker, a mother of three, died at the hands of a repeat DUI offender. The man charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in her July 2012 death is scheduled to go to trial in January. Kiley Ricker, a mother of three, died at the hands of a repeat DUI offender. The man charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in her July 2012 death is scheduled to go to trial in January.
TRI-CITIES, TN/VA (WJHL) -

Fourteen months after Kiley Ricker's death, her sister and mother continue to mourn the 33 year-old's death.

"The pain is just as fresh as the day that it happened," Ricker's mother Debby Drinkard said from inside her Greene County home.

Tennessee Highway Patrol said Ricker, a mother of three, was the passenger in a car driven by a six-time DUI offender back in July 2012. At the time, troopers said Marcus Strong was under the influence when he got behind the wheel and crashed. Strong, who is now charged with his seventh DUI, was released on bond just last month while he awaits his aggravated vehicular homicide trial set for January.

"Now we have to deal with Marcus Strong being out of jail," Drinkard said. "He got to go home to his family. Kiley will never be able to go back to hers'."

Strong is just one repeat DUI offender out of hundreds in Northeast Tennessee. A special Community Watchdog investigation revealed 445 people with at least four DUIs in the seven Northeast Tennessee counties.

"It makes me think that our system needs to do something better," Kiley's sister Misty Ricker said of our findings.

People with at least 4 DUIs

  • Sullivan County 137
  • Washington County 127
  • Greene County 68
  • Carter County 51
  • Hawkins County 40
  • Johnson County 12
  • Unicoi County 10

(Source: Tennessee Department of Correction)

"The numbers you have right here are proof evident that the old system failed," Rep. Tony Shipley (R-District 2) said. "I think in the past we just thought we were doing the right thing by being Draconian and just jacking the jail up and putting people under the jail. I think it made us feel good I guess. It wasn't effective. The procedures involved just weren't in place to consider other options. (We thought) 'Just lock them up and throw away the key', which was the old, traditional way of doing business, which I just think we let ourselves down. We just didn't think through the process."

The Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman has spent the last five years pushing a bi-partisan effort in Nashville to do away with that old system and try something new. Rep. Shipley is convinced the laws now in place in Tennessee to battle repeat DUIs are among the best in the nation.

"We're going to stop it," he said of the problem.

He is especially confident considering the most recent legislation he championed. On July 1st of this year Tennessee became the 18th state to require ignition interlock devices for any person convicted of a DUI offense, meaning any first-time DUI offender cannot get a restricted license unless they have this system installed in their car.

An ignition interlock system, which includes a camera, prevents the car from starting until the DUI convict proves he or she is sober by blowing into a breathalyzer.

Rep. Shipley says in the past, the technology and forward thinking just weren't there. Now he says the state's current laws are truly focused on saving lives and getting drunk drivers to change their habits.

"For the first time you're beginning to see us use technology to give these people an opportunity to help themselves," Rep. Shipley said.

Shipley says the state should never see such a high number of repeat offenders again.

"These numbers are under the old system," he said. "The new system that went into effect 1 July, ask me next year and the year after that."

Admittedly, the system isn't perfect.

"There's nothing to prevent that person from getting in another car, but there's nothing that would prevent them from getting in another car if we took their driver's license either," Rep. Shipley said.

That said, Rep. Shipley estimates 90% of first-time drunk drivers will follow the law. He says the rest just will never be law-abiding citizens.

He'd put the man troopers say was driving the car that killed Ricker in that category.

THP says even though Strong had a revoked license since 2002, he still found a car to drive. Ricker's family will forever have to live with that.

"Life goes on without her here and it's painful," her sister said.

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