Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Judge to accept comments on fatality

Lansing man enters no contest plea; victim’s parents urge friends to weigh in

August 29, 2007

Dennis and Denise Bixby -- as well as anyone else who wants to be heard -- will have the opportunity to tell a Leavenworth County District Court judge their thoughts on a Valentine's Day wreck that took the life of Amanda Bixby and injured others.

Amanda Bixby, the daughter of Dennis and Denise of Tonganoxie, was 19 when she was fatally injured in an accident Feb. 14 near Basehor.

Ricardo D. Flores, 21, Lansing, was driving a Toyota 4Runner north on 158th Street across U.S. Highway 24-40 when his vehicle struck a Dodge Durango and then it struck Amanda Bixby's Ford Taurus.

On Aug. 22, Flores pleaded no contest to failure to yield at a stop sign, speeding and driving without a valid license.

The speeding and failure to yield at a stop sign each carry $60 fines, but prosecutor Geoffrey Sonntag with the Leavenworth County Attorney's Office asked for a presentencing investigation for the driving without a license charge.

According to Judge Gunnar Sundby, that carries a fine of up to $1,000 and the possibility of up to six months in jail.

With the pre-sentencing investigation, Sundby will accept letters from anyone wanting to comment on the accident. And, the investigation will evaluate other factors, such as previous criminal history.

"We were kind of surprised," Denise Bixby said. We didn't know that anything like that existed."

The investigation allows the Bixbys and others to explain the significance of the accident.

"So for us being able to inform him about what happened due to his negligence, due to Ricardo Flores' negligence, he can hopefully deliver some sense of justice," Denise said. "Or at least allow the law to work.

"We have been talking to our friends to ask them to write statements on how Amanda's loss has impacted them, how it's impacted their family or the community. There have been many people who would be willing to do that so the judge would get a sense of the incredible loss due to this man's traffic offenses."

Flores originally was arrested for vehicular homicide, but Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl did not pursue a charge because of a 2002 Kansas Supreme Court Ruling. The court ruled at the time that the mere fact that a driver ran a red light or a stop sign did not satisfy the legal elements required for a vehicular homicide conviction.

Dennis Bixby has been working at the state level with Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, and Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, to review Kansas' current vehicular homicide law. Bixby is scheduled to speak to lawmakers Oct. 11 in Topeka.

Although vehicular homicide was not pursued in his daughter's case, Bixby said he was encouraged by the pre-sentencing investigation.

"This allows the judge, instead of reading a charge on a ticket, he actually gets to take in the events that happened the night of the accident," Bixby said. "And the weight of the seriousness of what's occurred."

He said anyone who wants to write a letter for the judge's consideration may send it to Bixby's house: 704 East St., Tonganoxie 66086.

He will then forward the letters on to the judge. The letters must be received by Sunday, Sept. 9, for the judge to review before Flores' sentencing date, which will be Wednesday, Sept. 19, in Leavenworth.

At Flores' June 27 court appearance, he was escorted out of the Leavenworth County Justice Center by two federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

According to Bixby, Flores was released later that day after his lawyer posted bond.

"The frustrating part is he's back on the road, Bixby said. "He's going to work, living his life just pretty much like he always did."

The accident also left Basehor teen Shelby Witt with severe foot injuries. She was a passenger in the Dodge Durango, along with Katelynn Witt, Juston Nichols and Juston's mother Dawn Nichols.

Bill Nichols was driving the Durango, as they were on their way to a Basehor-Linwood High School freshman boys basketball game. Amanda Bixby, meanwhile, was returning home to Tonganoxie after working at Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.