Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Resident to testify in Topeka about changing traffic laws

October 3, 2007

Tonganoxie resident Dennis Bixby soon will be speaking to the Legislature in Topeka in an effort to change vehicular homicide laws in Kansas.

He will speak Thursday, Oct. 11, nearly eight months after his daughter was killed in a three-vehicle accident near Basehor.

State Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, and Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, have been working with Bixby on toughening laws in Topeka regarding vehicular homicide.

Ricardo D. 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. At that time, the court ruled 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.

Judge Gunnar Sundby ruled Sept. 19 that Flores, the 21-year-old Lansing man involved in the accident in Basehor that killed Dennis Bixby's daughter, Amanda, and injured others, would pay roughly $228 in fines and court fees. In addition, Flores is not allowed to drive, so if he is caught driving, he must serve six months in jail.

Sundby listened to comments Sept. 19 from Dennis Bixby. Amanda was 19 years old when she was killed in the three-vehicle accident Feb. 14 at 158th Street and U.S. Highway 24-40 in Basehor. Sundby also heard from Curtis Witt, whose daughter, Shelby, was in the Dodge Durango that Flores' Toyota 4Runner initially hit before striking Amanda Bixby's Ford Taurus. Flores missed the stop sign at 158th Street and headed north across U.S. 24-40, according to sheriff's reports.

At an Aug. 22 hearing, Flores pleaded no contest to failure to yield at a stop sign, speeding and driving without a driver's license.

Before Flores spoke Sept. 19, Sundby granted requests by Dennis Bixby and Witt to speak before the court.

"I don't hold any ill-will feelings toward this man," Bixby said. "I don't know him well enough to do so.

"He has disrupted so many lives."

Bixby also mentioned that Amanda was he and his wife, Denise's, only child.

"There will be no grandchildren, no holidays, no birthdays," Bixby said, standing at a podium in the courtroom as Denise, seated in the second row of courtroom seating, closed her eyes.

Witt approached the podium after Bixby, noting that he can view the intersection where the accident occurred from his front yard.

He told the judge that his daughter spent 16 days at the University of Kansas Hospital and went through nine surgeries to repair her badly skinned foot, which doctors thought for some time would need to be amputated. Witt also noted that the accident ruined his daughter's athletics career. She was a member of the Basehor-Linwood High School varsity cross country and track teams.

Flores, in court, spoke for the first time in public about the accident. His lawyer, John Harvell, served as Flores' interpreter.

"I am very sorry for what happened," Flores said through Harvell.

He went on to reiterate his apology.

"This affects my family and their family," Flores said through Harvell.

"And I'm very sorry."

After Flores' comments were expressed through his attorney, Sundby responded, saying that his words had "no impact in this court."

"One thing he hasn't done is gone back to his country," Sundby said.

Flores, who is from Mexico, has an immigration hearing set for August 2008, according to Deborah Owens of the Leavenworth County Attorney's Office. Bixby also mentioned in his statement to the court that Flores was an illegal alien. Bixby said Monday that Andy Dedeke of the sheriff's office had told Bixby that Flores, by his own admission, told Dedeke that he was an illegal alien.

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