Families of crash victims brace for driver's parole hearing

PARKVILLE, Mo. - The families of three people killed in a horrific crash near Elkhorn held a vigil Tuesday night to pray for their loved ones, and for the strength to face a difficult day ahead -- the parole hearing for the driver who pleaded guilty to causing their deaths.

On Thursday, Rachel L. Rose will become eligible for parole just a little more than three years after receiving three concurrent seven-year sentences and four three-year sentences in connection with the May 2008 wreck.

The victims' families, already upset by what they felt was a light 10-year total of expected prison time, say they plan to testify against Rose receiving parole, ever.

"As far as we are concerned, there is definitely not enough justice," said Bobbi Martin, whose cousins Ami Helden, 32, and Jeanie Gholson, 11, were killed in the accident. "She got as much for taking three lives and screwing up so many more as what somebody does for stealing a TV."

Part of the families' anger about the sentence comes from questions about the cause of the accident. Police records say Rose was driving more than 70 miles per hour on a gravel road when the van -- packed with a dozen people not wearing seatbelts -- flipped, ejecting passengers and the driver. That much is not in dispute.

But a Missouri Highway Patrol preliminary report listed alcohol, as well as speed, as a contributing factor in the crash. No definitive blood alcohol level was ever publicly reported, and Rose denied being under the influence. Court records of her plea agreement make no mention of intoxication.

Victims' family members like Anita Schupman, who's 26-year-old son Austin died in the wreck, remain convinced that alcohol was involved, and Rose should have received a harsher sentence.

"There's just no justice," Schupman said. "Drunk driving is murder."

The Missouri Highway Patrol says seven year sentences for involuntary manslaughter, the charge to which Rose pleaded, are within normal guidelines.

Rose's attorney and family members could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

Rose, too, was injured in the crash, as were two of her children who were in the van.

"I understand that her family went through a lot, too, but at least at the end of the day they're able to hug the loved ones that got hurt in that wreck, and we're not," Martin said. 

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