Parents of two teenagers killed in a collision on Lawyers Hill Road in Elkridge last year spoke a lot about forgiveness at a sentencing hearing for the 19-year-old who had been driving more than 70 mph at times on the hilly, windy road.
Dale Kirk Audet of Linthicum pleaded guilty in September to two counts of criminal negligent manslaughter
In statements made in Howard County Circuit Court Wednesday, the victims' parents talked about how they came to forgive - or were trying to forgive - Audet. He had been “hill jumping” - accelerating over hills - on Nov. 25 of last year when the car he was driving went airborne and struck a tree, killing .
Judge William Tucker sentenced Audet to three years jail time for each charge of criminally negligent manslaughter, suspending all but 18 months total.
Tucker also said that if Audet’s attorney, David W. Fischer, were to file a “motion to reconsider,” presenting a home-detention option as opposed to jail time, he would consider it. As of Wednesday afternoon, however, Audet was headed to the Howard County Detention Center.
“These are never easy cases,” Tucker said before reading the sentence, “It’s never easy for anyone.”
Looking at Audet’s record, however, which included several warnings and citations for speeding, Tucker told Audet that he was a danger to others. “You shouldn’t have had a license,” he said. “You were irresponsible with a 2,000 pound deadly weapon.”
"I think Judge Tucker is trying to send a message to young people about the consequences of irresponsible driving," Fischer said after the hearing, surrounded by friends and family of Audet and the victims. Fischer said that he hoped the Court would consider house arrest so that Audet, who was severely injured in the collision, could continue rehabilitation.
“I don’t see what good a jail sentence will do,” Jonathon’s father, Brian Deckman, said in his testimony before the sentence was given out. When he went to see Audet in the hospital, Deckman said, “The first thing he said was ‘sorry.’ I told him I forgave him.”
Brian Deckman, who began crying as soon as he gave his name for the record, said of his son, “I know we will be reunited again.”
Jeffrey Giles’s mother, Karen Cole, stood with her husband as she told the court about the volunteer work her son had done in Honduras, digging wells to help people access safe water.
Of Jeffrey and Jonathon’s friendship: “They were best friends. They were baptized together and they died together.”
Cole also told the court about the day she gave Audet a hug.
“I told him we loved him and we forgave him.” But her grief, she said, made November a difficult month to handle. "I no longer want to celebrate my birthday," she said, because "one week later, that's Jeff's birthday and one week after that ..." he was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision.
Jonathan Deckman’s stepfather, Timothy Parthemore, addressed the court with his arm around wife Charnell Deckman. Before reading a poem that she wrote about the night of the collision, he turned to Audet and said that he and his wife were also trying to forgive.
“We are willing to forgive you today,” he said looking down at Audet, who was seated in a wheelchair. “But forgiveness does not take the place of responsibility.”
Charnell Deckman, barely comprehensible through her sobs, said the night before the collision, her son told her “I am so thankful for you.
“The day after Thanksgiving. The day he told me how thankful he was, five days before his 20th birthday,” she said, he was gone.
“He was my first born son and now he’s his little brother’s guardian angel.”
Attorneys for two passengers who survived the collision, Allisa Yi and Carlie Davis, both of Glen Burnie, also relayed to Fischer that they did not want to see Audet serve time in jail, he said.
“It showed a lot of class and graciousness on their part,” Fischer said of victims and their families’ willingness to forgive Audet.
“It breaks your heart a little bit because you know that their children had as much class and graciousness as their parents.”
Audet had little to say when asked if he wanted to address the court. He apologized, saying that Jeff and John were his best friends.
"I can't explain how I feel," he said, "That I was driving, that I caused this ... I just can't explain how I feel with words."