What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws
Our choices may define us but we never know which decisions have fleeting consequences and which may have lasting impact before we make them. For Raytown, Missouri mother Sandy Triebel, her decision to host a Halloween party for her daughter in 2009 and to allegedly serve rum with pineapple juice may have seemed a simple choice. It turned out she was dead wrong, because Triebel may be facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
Blue Springs resident, Kenneth S. Blake II, then 19, drank two-and-a-half glasses of the rum concoctions, left the party early – between 9:30 and 10:00pm – and drove east on the west-bound side of US 24. Blake was still in costume, with black and white face paint, as the character “Otis” from Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” movie. He was reported to be driving between 55 and 60 miles per hour when his 1998 Chevy Malibu smashed into the green 1995 Dodge Neon carrying three high-school girls around 11:40pm. His blood alcohol content was 0.239 (0.08 is legally drunk). Ironically, at least some of the alcohol shared a brand name with his car, Malibu. But Blake didn’t die; he lived to regret his choice while he serves time in Western Missouri Correctional Center.
Instead, the crash killed 16-year-old Laura Reynolds, a junior at Fort Osage High School, and injured two others, the driver who was 17-years-old and the back seat passenger, 15, who were traveling west-bound in the west-bound lane. Laura Reynolds’ last decision was to sit in the front passenger seat.
Now, the state has turned its attention to the party’s hostess, Triebel. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Baker wants to charge Triebel for what she says is her part in Reynolds’ death. In addition to the misdemeanor charges for furnishing (supplying liquor to a minor) and social hosting (allowing a minor to drink on her property), the state alleges that Triebel’s actions warrant an involuntary manslaughter charge because, they claim, she was aware that Blake was a minor, that he drank in her home and that he was intoxicated before he left.
They’ve chosen to pursue a controversial criminal involuntary manslaughter charge for Laura Reynolds’ death, despite the fact that Missouri doesn’t have a third-party liability standard.
Triebel’s defense lawyer, public defender Tiffany Leuty, noted that Missouri courts have traditionally ruled that “furnishing alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries by intoxicated persons”, which was the decision handed down by Missouri’s state appeals court for a different case in 2005. Although that was a civil court case, not a criminal case, experts on both sides have recognized the sizable legal barriers in the state’s case.
The next decision with lasting consequences belongs to Jackson County judge Peggy McGraw, who will rule in the next few weeks whether involuntary manslaughter charges can be filed against Sandra Triebel. If so, the case is set to go to trial in September.
Since Triebel has already admitted to police that she actively hosted the party, another decision she may live to regret, there is little question she will face some consequences for her choices that evening. However, we’ve made a decision to share two questions that are bugging us as we read the details of this case.
What did Kenneth Blake do during the one-and-a-half to over two hours between leaving Triebel’s party and driving the wrong way? The crash was fewer than 13 miles away. When asked that question, Leuty confirmed that they will argue Blake didn’t get lost but instead went to another location.
If he was lost and driving, how did his blood alcohol count (BAC) get and remain so high? To do so, Blake would have had to drink the equivalent of more than 10 drinks per hour on an empty stomach during the party. Leuty confirmed that they will argue that Blake didn’t get drunk at Triebel’s party but went to another location after and got drunk there.
It’s our choice to follow this case closely and see what happens. What do you think? Vote here:
To learn more:
Missouri Party Host Blamed in Fatal Drunk Accident (abcnews.go.com)
Judge’s Decision May Set Precedent in Fatal Accident Case. (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
Trial delayed in teen party crash death (kshb.com)
Case tests party host’s role in fatal car crash (kansascity.com)
Missouri case tests party host’s role in fatal crash (columbiamissourian.com)