After losing her son and would-be daughter-in-law to a drunk driver, a Missouri woman was left to raise the couple’s surviving children. Hoping to make such criminals pay the price for their actions, the grieving grandmother made a proposal that was passed by the state.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, after drinking “seven shots of Crown and water,” 26-year-old David Goss Thurby got into his vehicle and sped down Highway 30 in Jefferson, Missouri. He then struck another vehicle from behind, causing it to veer right off the road and smash into multiple trees before bursting into flames. Thurby survived, but the family in the other car did not.
Cordell Williams, 30, Lacey K. Newton, 25, and their 4-month-old son Cordell Williams II died in the crash. Thurby was arrested and held without bail at the Jefferson County Jail, where he tested at an alcohol level of 0.192 percent, which is more than double the legal limit.
Williams and Newton left behind two young children: 3-year-old Mason and 5-year-old Bentley. Thankfully, Cecilia Williams was able to take in her grandsons as they grieved the loss of both parents and their baby brother. Seeing the long-term effects, both emotionally and financially, Cecilia didn’t see prison time alone as justice.
Since the children’s parents both worked to support their children, Cecilia was unexpectedly charged with the burden of caring for the boys. Besides struggling to comfort them in their confusion and grief, the grandmother had to pick up the tab for their expenses. However, she came up with a plan to make the drunk driver pay for the mess he created.
“They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t ask to lose their parents,” Cecilia said. “They deserve to get that compensation because you’re talking about raising children that their parents are no longer here.”
On behalf of her grandsons, Cecilia Williams introduced a bill that quickly spread from state to state. The determined grandmother proposed legislation called “Bentley’s Law,” which forces drunk drivers who kill parents of minor children to pay child support until the children turn 18 and graduate high school.
“I’m going to fight like hell to change the legislation on driving under the influence in Missouri,” she said. “Those laws are not fair, they’re not just, they’re not going to help any family member. We’re in the works with a couple of (lawmakers) who are working on a bill called Bentley’s Law, because Bentley is their oldest surviving son.”
Bentley’s Law passed unanimously in the Tennessee House of Representatives by a vote of 93-0. The victory was bittersweet, as Cecilia was still working on passing the legislation in her own state so that her grandchildren receive the compensation they deserve. She hopes that it will make drunk drivers think twice before getting behind the wheel.
“They will always remember, this is what I did to the family, you know, and it will sink into them. I can’t do this again. You know, I’m supporting children that aren’t mine,” Cecilia explained.
After Bentley’s Law was filed in multiple states, Cecilia said she was determined to get the bill passed in all 50 states, even if it takes her the rest of her life. However, her goal might be closer than initially expected, since the law has garnered praise and support from citizens and legislators across the nation.
The more the word is spread about Bentley’s Law, the greater the chance that it will be passed in every state. Most people would be willing to support this legislation and contact their state representatives if they knew just how impactful this would be for the children of drunk driving victims. Is your state on board?