In Alaska, we try not to nickel-and-dime you with nitnoid law enforcement. Most cops have better things to do than run speed traps and sobriety checkpoints. But when you go out of your way to screw up, we hammer your ass, as Stacey Allen Graham is finding out after he struck and killed two teenage girls while driving under the influence of alcohol and now faces murder charges as a result. The big picture of this story is provided by three media sources; KTUU Channel 2, the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch. KTVA Channel 11 provides a video report of public reaction:
Summary: On Friday August 9th, 2013, two 15-year-old high school students, Brooke McPheters and Jordyn Durr, were walking home along a bike path on the west side of Abbott Road near the curve where it becomes Dimond Blvd. Just before 6:45 p.m., witnesses saw Stacy Allen Graham driving recklessly in his 2006 Toyota Tacoma headed eastbound on Dimond Boulevard. As he rounded one arc of the "S" turn before 88th Avenue, Graham appeared to lose control and the pickup left the roadway, striking McPheters and Durr, then smashing into a sign for the Alzheimer's Resource of Alaska building at 1750 Abbott Road. Graham's pickup landed on its side, and first responders had to remove the roof of Graham's vehicle in order to extract him from the vehicle and he was transported to a hospital with what appeared to be serious injuries. Unfortunately, both McPheters and Durr were pronounced deceased at the scene.
-- See map of mishap location HERE.
Initial Investigation: Police determined that alcohol, reckless driving, excessive speed and wet road conditions contributed to the mishap. Preliminary tests indicate Graham's blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit of .08 at the time of the crash. Consequently, Graham has been charged with two felony counts of second degree murder ((AS11.41.110(a)(2): Murder 2 - Extreme Indifference)) and one misdemeanor count of DUI ((AS28.35.030(a)(1): DUI- Alcohol Or Contr Subst)); the case is documented as Case No. 3AN-13-08758CR in the Alaska Court System database. Bail is currently set at $75,000 plus a third-party custodian. According to AS 12.55.125(b), a second degree murder conviction carries a penalty of at least 10 years but not more than 99 years; the DUI sentence is likely to be concurrent.
Criminal History: No other criminal offenses are documented under his name; he previously filed for divorce in 2011. The Anchorage Daily News claims that Graham was cited for speeding in 2011.
More About The Victims: Brooke McPheters and Jordyn Durr had been friends since fourth grade. McPheeters, who attended South High School, spent her free time volunteering at Children’s Lunchbox, a local program that provides meals for students living in poverty, and the Anchorage Museum at Rasumson Center. She aspired to join the U.S. Air Force and become either a mechanic or a pilot, and was enrolled in South High’s Air Force ROTC program. According to retired Air Force MSgt Keith Coulter, who was McPheters' Junior ROTC instructor during her freshman year, McPheeters logged 400 hours as a volunteer with Children’s Lunchbox, and he characterized her as more of a catalyst for changing an environment and community than any other kid he'd ever seen. Durr, who attended Service High School, also participated in ROTC and aspired to join the Air Force; she was a great shooter who earned a letter on the Service riflery squad. Update August 13th: A celebration of life for Brooke McPheters and Jordyn Durr will be held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday August 20th at Changepoint Church, located at 6689 Changepoint Drive in Anchorage. The public is invited, but no cameras, audio devices or media will be allowed at the event.
Public Reaction: In comments to the media stories, some people are asking if Graham had been drinking at a bar before the mishap. They want the bar to be held responsible as well under dram shop laws. However, police have not released such information yet. While well-intentioned, levying criminal charges on a bar for a patron's DUI is a mistake because it dilutes personal responsibility for a DUI. The bar may serve the liquor, but it doesn't force the patron to climb into a vehicle blind drunk; we don't want DUI perps to be blaming their intoxication on a bar. Civil liability is a different manner, however, and there is no reason why a bar owner could not be required to be accountable in civil court.
Those who advocate strong penalties for first-time simple DUI (no death, injury, or property damage) contend that it will deter extreme violations such as this. Not necessarily so -- Stacey Graham had no prior DUIs, although it's likely he has driven under the influence in the past. Turning Alaska into a police state to uncover the occasional Stacey Graham merely punishes the innocent and responsible. The answer is draconian penalties for aggravated DUI -- if you cause a fatality, injury, or property damage, you get hammered. Graham may not have intended to kill two innocent people, but he cannot give them their lives back. A life sentence at hard labor would be absolutely appropriate. Here are a couple of thought-provoking comments from some citizens (after the jump):
AlaskaLive at 7:53 AM August 11, 2013 (KTUU):
A few children and teachers are killed by a crazed gunman, and the government, media and nation wants to ban guns... but over 11,000 men, women and children are killed directly related to ALCOHOL EACH YEAR and NOBODY IS SAYING BAN ALCOHOL... these two girls will soon be just statistics, and a way for the media to make money from their story... nothing more.. nothing in America will change.. because THERE IS SO MUCH DRUG MONEY BEING MADE FROM THE LEGAL DRUG ALCOHOL!
WHAT A SHAME!
Art Chance August 11, 2013 3 hours ago (Alaska Dispatch):
My wife and I drove from Juneau to Anchorage so she could start her new job here in August of 2010. We're on the Glenn between Eagle River and town and I was in the right lane and actually speeding to keep up with traffic, which was getting pretty heavy. In my rear view mirrors I saw a pickup coming up behind us going at least twenty miles an hour faster, somewhere between 80 and 90 or more, and flashing his lights for people to move to give him room. I saw him as he sped by; late teens, early twenties, one hand on the wheel, the other on the honey squeezed in the middle beside him. I turned to my wife and said," welcome to Anchorage, the land of punks in pickups."
Hardly a day has gone by since I moved back here that I haven't observed some teen, twenty, or thirty something male driving a pickup and doing something unnecessarily agressive, stupid, or both. How does one write the script on this guy, this murderer? And yes, I left out the alleged; the only thing in doubt here is what the DA will let him plead to. All we know is that he's had little contact with the law, but that's easy to do in Alaska where there really is a minimal law enforcement presence except near popular bars at closing time; that might make you wonder whether DUI laws are more about public safety or public revenue. We know he had kids and a wife until a couple of years ago. Was the divorce because he was one of those men who never grow up and never stop drinking and raising Hell with cars and trucks and the wife just gave up on him? That seems to happen a lot in Alaska; a couple gets married right out of high school has a couple of kids, and sometime in her late twenties, early thirties the wife discovers he's always going to be an irresponsible jerk. Was she one of those women who looking at thirty and with kids wanted to try the field just one more time and dumped him and he's been drowning his troubles and acting stupid since? That happens too.
When I was thirty-something, a man that age was a grown man reaching for the peak; he had a wife, he had kids, he had a job that mattered to him and he wasn't flying down a heavily trafficked street after getting smashed at quitting time. How'd he do it? Did some bar serve him to three times the limit in an hour or two after work? Did he stop on the way home and buy a bottle and slam it? Don't think it was the latter because it takes awhile to get that drunk. Don't get me wrong, I did it, and there's more than a few holes in my circle of friends and acquaintances from booze or drugs and cars, but if you weren't over that by your early 20s, you were shortly to be in jail or the graveyard. I guess thirty really is the new fifteen. Now two promising young women will never see thirty because some punk was able to escape growing up. It's so tragic! The families are in our thoughts.