Statement by Mike Geiger – Amanda’s father
Judge Tillet: There is no greater impact on a family than the loss of a child. We loved Amanda, and in an instant she was taken from us. Amanda was the youngest in our family of 5. She was bright, outgoing, sensitive, caring, and adventurous. These past nine months without her have been very hard to handle, as the enormous space she left behind has forever changed us. Amanda was a dynamic young lady who kept our household lively. Since her death the healing process has been slow. All of us find it hard to concentrate on much of anything. Some days everything is fine, and on others we fall backwards. Birthdays, holidays, and family events now feel strange. As a parent, one of the nicest sounds you will ever hear is your child calling you Dad or Mom, or calling her brother and sister, Michael and Kelly. We miss her cheery announcement, “I’m home!” Once in awhile she called me Pops, and her mom, Sugar. We miss that every day. Now we have visits from her friends, who come to share their experiences as well as their memories of better times. We have Amanda’s paintings, pictures, and different souvenirs around the house, but no Amanda. You can’t believe the pain that shoots through you when a police officer tells you your child has been killed. We don’t want other families to experience the pain that all of our families have felt. There are a lot of things in life that you have no control over, but this senseless crash didn’t have to happen. Amanda will always be a precious gem to her family and everyone who knew her.
Statement by Kathy McGrady – Angela’s Mother
Your Honor, Nine months ago my family’s life and mine drastically changed. Two Medford Township Police officers came to our door to tell us our daughter Angela was killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. The first thing was disbelief and shock for all of us. All I wanted to do was go to her and hold her in my arms and tell her I loved her. This should have never happened to Angela. She didn’t deserve to die this way. When I saw her body for the first time her face and chest were badly bruised. Her head rested on her chest and she was three times the size she should have been. When I close my eyes at night sometimes it is the only thing I can vision. Angela would never have hurt anyone. She was loved by many. She was so sweet and innocent, and loved just being with family and friends. The first thing people remember about her is her big beautiful smile. Angela was just starting to really live her life. She worked as a clerk in a grocery store. She was deciding what college to go to, looking forward to going to her prom, and then graduation. Her family will never see her accomplish these things. Some of her dreams were to get married, have children, and live on a big farm with lots of animals. That has all been taken from her and her family. Now I visit a grave with a small cross, an angel, and notes left by loved ones. I miss her so much. I see the pain it has brought to my husband, my son, and myself. There are no words to describe this pain. Angela and her friends Shana, Amanda, Megan, and Mike, will never get the chance to laugh, sing, talk, or share a special moment together. That all ended for them April 6, 1999, due to the actions of Melissa Marvin. Now our home is so empty. There is no more laughter, no more teenagers coming in and out, and no more, “I love you mom.” “I’ll be safe, mom.” No more, “I’m home, good night.”
Statement by Jim Blong – Megan’s Father
Our family wishes to thank the members of the jury for their time and effort in reaching their difficult decision. We would like to thank both the state and defense attorneys for the professional manner in which this case was presented and the witnesses for their honest and sincere testimony this week. Finally, we want to thank the police and fire departments, EMTs, and everyone else who provided help to our children at the crash site and medical centers. Although Megan accomplished so much, her life was only just beginning; a new horizon was out there to accomplish. On April 6th, 1999, tragically, in such a violent and abrupt way, Megan was killed. In eighth grade, Megan was class president and she ended her speech with “We will be the graduating Class of 2000.” Megan had planned to run for class president in her senior year and address her classmates again. Yet due to Miss Marvin’s selfless act, we will be remembering her tragic death instead of celebrating her high school graduation. At her funeral we had many people tell us of the kind acts she had done for their children at school; acts far beyond her years. These are only a few of the things our family and others will never get to experience again from Megan. Instead, our lives have been forever changed and we are now faced with constant daily reminders of our loss. We receive endless college applications for Megan in the mail daily; we now have one less name to sign on our holiday cards; one less spot to set at the kitchen table; one less person on our family vacations; her empty bedroom. We still celebrated her 18th birthday on July 26th this past summer by bringing her cake to the cemetery. Nothing will bring our Megan, Angie, Shana, or Amanda back. And Michael will always have to live with the horror of the crash. But today, we are asking in our Megan’s name for our society to realize that this was not an accident, it was a totally avoidable crime. It is a crime of murder. Your Honor, we ask that the deaths of our Megan, Amanda, Angela, and Shana not to have been in vain. No other family should have to experience the pain and heartache we are now living with every day without our children. We believe your imposition of a long incarceration will deter others from repeating the actions of Miss Marvin. We believe a long incarceration will prevent other families and other communities from feeling the pain and suffering our family and this community are enduring and will continue to endure. Thank you.
Statement by Paul Lawler – Shana’s Father
Dear Judge Tillet, I am Shana’s dad . Do you have children, Your Honor? I am sure you love your children more than your own life and would do all you could to protect them from harm. Our children are a gift from the Lord and are most precious. I remember sitting next to my Shana in Sentara Hospital’s trauma unit holding her hand and praying to the Lord Jesus to spare her precious life. Shana’s sisters, her Mom, and I, were on our knees to God praying for a miracle to come. Our Shan Shan would open her eyes and we would take her home with us. The last memory I have of my Shana is lying in a coma on her hospital bed. I would wipe the tears from her eyes when the pain would increase, sing to her for encouragement, and kissing her good-bye for the last time. My God chose not to answer our prayers according to our desires. He did take my Shana home to be with Him for all eternity. That is a miracle by His grace. Why do I bring the Lord into my statement? Because we are all accountable to Him for our actions during our life time. Your Honor, you have been chosen by God to minister the law of the land in Dare County. Where lawlessness resides, the people will suffer. The disregard for the drunk driving laws of our county have had a devastating effect on our lives. I have spoken to many EMTs, police officers and emergency care workers on the banks. Their frustration in witnessing time and again DWI crash scenes has taken its toll. One fireman has resigned his position as a direct result of this crash. Our county cannot afford to lose such dedicated people. An individual who is apprehended for a DWI only to have the charge reduced or dropped is very frustrating. These people continue to drink and drive. The penalty for a reduced charge of reckless driving is almost always a $100 fine and a suspended sentence. Littering seems to bring a more serious penalty. Miss Marvin will drink and drive again if she is permitted to escape her debt to our society. You have the power to prevent her from driving by incarceration. A maximum sentence will not bring back my Shana, my Amanda, my Angie, my Megan. It may perhaps, discourage another Miss Marvin from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and killing someone you love, Judge. A liberal attitude towards Drunk Driving does and will one day effect each one of us. Please consider the message being sent to our community and nation when you pass sentence on Miss Marvin. Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, Shana’s Dad, Paul Lawler
Statement by Brenda Lawler – Shana’s Mother
Judge Tillett, Over and over again you listened to how our hearts have been broken, how our lives have been changed forever. Melissa Marvin’s life has also been changed. Judge Tillett, Melissa Marvin had a choice in her future. Angie, Meg, Amanda, Mike and my Shana did not. Melissa Marvin made her own decision. Melissa Marvin, on April 6, 1999, with total disregard for the law, got behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming at least 5 drinks. I received a letter from a friend the other day and he had put down the essence of the problem that we have here concerning drinking and driving. I would like to read a portion of that letter: Bruce states, “As a parent myself, observing the suffering of all the families involved that day caused me to think that this could happen to one of my children someday. The thing that kept coming to my mind was why this happened. “In 1991 and 1996 our Justice System, in the name of compassion, let Melissa Marvin go, with no regard for previous offenses. Oh she may have received some kind of sentence but it had all the effect of saying, “There, there now, little girl. Now don’t do it again.” That was not compassion but encouragement to repeat her behavior. The most compassionate thing that could have happened to the defendant would have been to punish her to the fullest extent possible. To try and get her to realize that there are consequences for immoral behavior or choices. “In my professional life I am a minister to children. I observe the effects of children who are raised in environments without boundaries. I know that if they do not learn to subscribe to an authority higher than their individual feelings, many will end up in courtrooms such as yours. “That is tragic, but if they do not even have an opportunity to learn in that setting, then they will continue making tragic choices that will hurt them and society at large. We can see how leniency and so-called tolerance has resulted in an explosion of crime and immorality. But we can also see that strict enforcement of justice has caused major improvements in crime where many people had lost hope. The signals that truly compassionate justice sends are deterrence to would-be offenders. Causing them to think through their choices before committing their actions. “As a child I grew up in a permissive environment culturally. I was taught to use my feelings to be my personal morality. It led to many lawless deeds. But as an adult I learned the hard way that honesty and integrity are based on a moral law. I learned if you have a moral law then there must be a moral law giver. A higher authority. You sir, represent that concept of a higher authority. “As a parent, I am loving and supportive when my children demonstrate good behavior and choices. But I am strict with my children when they commit infractions. It is the hardest job I have ever done but I do it out of duty, love and true compassion to them so that they will not turn into individuals that you will be looking at across your bench someday. “I do not envy the difficult decisions that comes with the duties your job requires. But we are all called to do our duty. As far as the defendant is concerned, she has ruined her life and destroyed the lives of many others. But this senseless tragedy can be used to get others to think through their actions. I implore you to please do your duty and sentence Melissa Marvin to the maximum sentence possible.” My friend was correct in his observations. The letters and phone calls I have received have told me the residents of Dare County are tired of DWIs being dismissed as inconsequential. They want to see Miss Marvin prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I have heard it said that “Missy has suffered enough.” Looking at my Shana’s empty bed, reading over and over the I love you notes, aching for a hug from my little girl. That, judge, is suffering. My Shana was so special. You see at 17 she was a child who respected and loved her parents and her sisters. Not a day passed that she didn’t say “I love you Mom.” April 6, 1999, the last thing Shane said to me was “Mom, thanks for letting my friends come down, I love you!” and off to work she went. Shana was a responsible 17 year old. We taught her that most of the events in life are shaped by your own actions and that you have to be accountable for those actions. Shana, at 17, knew that drinking and driving was not only against the law but I can vividly remember her saying, “Mom I would never do that, it’s stupid.” Judge Tillett, I ask that the sentence you give Melissa Marvin fit the crime of killing 4 beautiful 17 year old children. As far as I’m concerned, Miss Marvin does not deserve anything other then the maximum penalty allowed by law. This woman needs to be kept off the roads, and I believe jail is the only thing that will accomplish that. I would also like to say that I do not hate you, Melissa. I hate what you did, but I refuse to fill myself with bitterness. If I did that you would have not only taken my daughter’s life, but mine as well. Judge Tillett, please consider all I have stated when sentencing Melissa Marvin. Our community wants people to understand that driving while intoxicated will no longer be tolerated. Thank you, Brenda Lawler
Statement by Mike’s Father – Doug Horner
I put them on the bus. Four beautiful teenagers. They were filled with life, they were filled with joy, they were filled with hope. Their lives stretched out before them as far as the horizon. They couldn’t see that, though; they were all just looking forward to visiting their good friend Shana whom they hadn’t seen in almost a year. They were so excited to go. Amanda with her golden hair and demure countenance. Angela in sandals and with her mile wide smile. Mike and Megan off to the side and engrossed in some intense conversation. They were so alive. I had been so worried about doing the responsible Dad thing – I called the other parents, I called the bus station for schedules, I called Paul Lawler to make sure he knew when to be there to pick up the kids I figured that if I could just get them on the right bus, at the right time, pointed in the right direction, and another Dad was at the receiving end to get them off, well, then the worst of my worries would be over. The next time I saw my son he had tubes sticking out of his face. And his abdomen was being held together with steel staples. I never saw the girls again. Because Angie and I had to stay with Mike at the hospital, and I had to stay with him when we got home, I never got to be at Megan’s funeral, and I never got to be at Angela’s funeral, and I never got to be at Amanda’s funeral. But I did get to go to Shana’s funeral. The Lawlers had graciously brought Shana back home to New Jersey, because she had so many friends there. Unfortunately I had never met Shana before then. The first time I got to meet her, she was wearing her blue jean overalls and was lying in her casket. And when I lie in my bed, awake at night, I wonder how all of this could have happened. How could all of this be allowed to happen? Who could just one person, in one drunken, murderous moment, cause so much carnage?? When I see my son Mike at home with us, I thank God that somehow, He saw fit to give Mike back to his mother and me. But when I stare into the vacant eyes of eight other parents, and their surviving children, I see their pain. When I meet with them over coffee at their houses and we talk about next week’s MADD meeting, or how to plan a charity fund raiser, I know their pain. When I put my arms around their shoulders and hug them, I feel their pain. And, I feel their pain because I put their children on the bus.