Back in January, I had the opportunity to give a short statement to give this court and I wrote a brief, yet powerful statement. Then, I was told I had more time than I thought to speak to the court so this short statement has grown. Now, three months later, I finally have the chance to speak again and I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed but my statement got longer. It still hurts. The pain supposedly gets easier to deal with, over time, but it doesn’t fade. I am still raw with it. So many times over the past year I’ve wanted to call and tell them something.. Something in my life, something in my son’s life or just talk.
It has been a year since I lost my parents. One year, almost to the day, since they were ripped from my life and my family was left devastated by loss.
My parents were murdered. The defense may argue technicalities and definitions, but the reality of the situation is that Mr Runions murdered my parents.
Yes, Mr. Runions, you murdered my parents. You acted in a callous and deliberate manner when you chose to consume alcohol, when you drank to excess, when you got behind the wheel. Being under the influence doesn’t lessen your guilt, Mr Runions, it makes it so much worse. You made a selfish, horrible choice that endangered every other person on the road. You knowingly got into your vehicle after imbibing alcohol and that choice led to the murder of my parents. You murdered them, Mr Runions.
You were in the military. I used to be a military spouse; I know what the military demands of those who serve, the behavioural standards and code of honour that is required to be upheld by all military people. It is a role that demands integrity and personal responsibility, but through your actions you disgraced yourself and those who serve with you.
Being in the military is an honourable position, but you have displayed none of the qualities a military non-commissioned officer should have. You are supposed to uphold the laws of this country and defend its citizens. Instead you chose to drink and drive, and in doing so you took the lives of some of the very people you were supposed to protect.
Even worse, you were a medic. A healer. Someone who was trained to save lives, but instead, you took them. You killed. You, Mr Runions, who must have seen and heard the worst, who must be more aware than most of the dangers of drinking and driving, who must have experience in dealing with violent death and its aftermath – you betrayed your duty, your country and yourself when you murdered my parents.
You held the rank of sergeant. A position of responsibility, not just to your senior officers, but to those who served under you. Impressionable young people who looked to you as a mentor, who looked to you as a role model. You would have heard many lectures on the dangers of drinking and driving, and perhaps even been responsible for giving those lectures in turn. You chose to betray that responsibility and destroy the faith those soldiers had in you, and now those soldiers can no longer look you in the eye.
I’ve looked you up, Mr Runions. I wanted to learn what I could about you, to understand what sort of person could take my parents from me. I’m aware of your social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter – everything that you have put online for all the world to see.
Do you know what I saw? I saw a young man who had a bright future, who enjoyed spending time with his friends, serving with his fellow soldiers, working for the good of this country. Those are qualities I can admire and even respect. But there’s more, Mr Runions. Lurking beneath your positive traits was something much darker – something frightening.
I saw a party animal; a lifestyle that bordered on the hedonistic. Not just a happy-go-lucky, carefree soul, but someone exhibiting a worrying pattern of behaviour and a selfish disregard for those around him. I saw someone who frequently drank to excess with little regard for the consequences, to himself or others. Perhaps that is normal behaviour for a young man with few responsibilities, but you were responsible when you made the choice to drink and drive.
Was it the first time, Mr Runions? Have you been drunk before, when you got behind the wheel? How many close calls have there been? How many others have been put at risk because of the cruel and horrible decisions that you have made? How many people have almost lost their parents because of you? I keep asking why. Why did it have to be my parents you hit that day? A few seconds either way and they could have been safe from you.
But they weren’t safe, and because of you, my family was destroyed. Do you know what it feels like to be ripped apart by grief? To have the sudden and violent death of people you loved thrust upon you? I could have had many more years with my parents, but now my family has to deal with the moments we’ve lost, the holidays we’ll never share. It wasn’t just their absence that was heartwrenching, it was remembering why they were gone.
You took that from us, Mr Runions. I hope you will be imprisoned for a very long time; but it will never be long enough. You can never do anything to make up for the lives you destroyed. What will happen when you get out? Will you do it again? Drink and drive and destroy someone else’s life? Someone in your own family, perhaps? I hope you can learn from this, that you understand the mistakes you made, that it was your actions that led to tragedy. Don’t drink to escape or numb. Don’t drive under the influence. Learn to make responsible choices. Don’t make anyone else suffer the same loss that I did when you murdered my parents.
Last year, before my parents were murdered, we had had plans. April is my and my husband’s birthday, so two weeks from the accident we were going to have dinner together to celebrate. The Monday before it happened my parents had taken my son to his dentist appointment. (They always took him to appointments so I would not have to take time off from work.) My son got to see them, but I didn’t because we had plans in two weeks. I never even dreamt it would be the last time anyone from our family would see them alive. My Dad
always bought me Cadbury Eggs, ever since I was a little girl. I love Cadbury Eggs. He left two eggs with my son for me. I’m sad to say I ate them that same day. I emailed him to thank him, but I never received a response. He probably planned on emailing or calling the following weekend. The weekend, it turns out, that he was in the hospital and unconscious, near death and my Mom already gone. I never got to talk to my parents again. I never got to see my parents alive and well again. I never got to hug them again or tell them I loved them.
Going through their home was so tough. Their bed was unmade, left-over food in the fridge, some dishes undone, dishwasher full and clean. We found boxes and boxes of pictures. I think they always planned on going through them and organizing, but never was home long enough to do so. They were so active. In all the boxes, old and new, there were pictures of my son interspersed, so I know they were sharing pictures and then always having a picture of my son to show off. It was sad and funny at the same time when going through those boxes because in between old black and white pictures, there were pictures of my son, just random. It made me laugh a little through my tears. They loved him so much.
They also never had a chance to explain the pictures or write down who was in them. That information is now lost for eternity. So many stories, gone. So much history, gone. In a blink of an eye, my entire past is wiped from memory because there is no one left alive to tell the stories.
Over the past year, my parents have missed so much of our lives. My son is a junior in high school now. He’s doing okay. Not great but not horrible. He maintains a 3.5 GPA although it was higher before my parents were murdered. (Originally, he wanted to go to Stanford, but his grades suffered last year and have never really recovered.) They would have been proud, though. They were always proud of their grandson. He was the apple of their eyes. He scored really high on ACT and SAT tests. He’s taking Robotics and really enjoying it through a new program just implemented at his school. There have been presentations in Robotics, where my son made machines work, do tasks, really big machines. He was even featured on the cover of the High School newsletter with one of the Robots. They would have been thrilled and we would have had to get so many copies so they could send it to all their friends and extended family. They would have came for the presentations because they always did that. They came to all of his activities and presentations. They would have been so impressed with what he knows, what he can do and with the young man he has become and is becoming. He is so smart!
He will probably go to Kansas State University in fall of 2018. We would have had visits to KSU and met my parents and toured the campus. I know for a fact they were looking forward to that because even if he didn’t choose to go to KSU, we would have toured and talked to the Engineering Department (my son wants to build robots. It’s always been his dream). I know my parents hoped he would choose KSU. I think that’s why they moved there. It would have been so comforting for me to know they were near if he needed them or just wanted to visit. They would have taken him to lunches, celebrated successes, provided listening ears to troubles and concerns and questions he would have. They gave great pep talks and would have just been there for him. We could have all met for lunches and dinners and enjoyed each other’s company and stories and just relaxed as families should. We would have celebrated holidays and birthdays and just gotten together for no reason at all. Because families do that.
My parents even talked about later, after my son graduated from college. My Dad loved the snow, just like me. My Mom liked warmer weather. I have plans to move to Colorado because I love snow so much. My brother lives in Texas because he likes the heat. It was mentioned that my Dad would come live with us and my Mom would go live with my brother and we would travel a lot to spend time together. They may or may not have been joking but we had plans. We had so many plans. My parents even had their passports, just renewed them. They loved to travel. They loved going on adventures. They were not old, they were not in poor health. They were healthy and active and loving life and enjoying retirement. If they had not been murdered, they would have lived long enough to come to my son’s graduation, from high school and from college. They would have been around for his future wedding after college and eventual great-grandchildren. They would have lived because that is who they were.
You murdered my parents. You left me and my brother without parents. You left my son without his grandparents. Oh yes, my son, Kevin, yes Mr. Runions, my son’s name is Kevin. Do you know how difficult it is to say or hear your name now? Fortunately, after today, I never ever have to think about you again. No matter what happens, done is done. YOU however will have to live with what you did forever. And ever. You will never forget. My Mom and Dad. Ron and Marlene Montgomery. My parents. One bad decision destroyed the lives of so many, leading to painful, soul-wrenching tragedy.