While family members of two people who were killed by a drunk driver struggled Friday, Jan. 8, at his sentencing to come to grips with their loss, the mother of one young victim declared, “I don’t understand why we could have a war on terror, a war on drugs, but not a war on DUI murderers.”
The comments came during the sentencing of Shannon Kelly Shimp, 36, who got the maximum term of 16 years in state prison for what a jury convicted him of on Sept. 18.
Relatives of Ian Kinney, 19, of Julian, and Joseph Edwards, 52, of Ramona, expressed dismay that the jury acquitted Shimp of two counts of second-degree murder.
Shimp was found guilty of two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, drunk driving, and drunk driving with injuries during the July 22, 2008, incident at 6 p.m. on state Route 78 near Ramona. Had Shimp, of El Cajon, been convicted of two second-degree murder counts, he would likely have been sentenced to more than 30 years to life in prison.
The courtroom was packed with family and friends of the victims and of Shimp. Many of their faces were etched in grief, sadness and sometimes anger. Shimp cried softly throughout and repeatedly tried to dab tissues to his face while he was handcuffed and dressed in blue jail clothing.
El Cajon Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos said that, while Shimp “has genuine remorse,” he also noted that Shimp was driving “a one ton truck that turned it into this lethal weapon.” Exarhos said Shimp had left Molly Malone’s in Ramona after a bartender stopped serving him drinks and Shimp also had methamphetamine in his system.
Exarhos ordered him to pay restitution to the families at an amount to be determined at a future hearing and a $1,000 fine. He gave him credit for serving 536 days in jail.
He imposed 10 years for the death of Ian Kinney, and three years for the death of Edwards, who was Shimp’s passenger in a white flatbed truck. Kinney was driving a Lexus and Shimp plowed head-on into the Lexus while in the westbound lane as he tried to pass three vehicles.
Exarhos added three years consecutively for the great bodily injuries suffered by Kinney’s girlfriend, Tessa Medearis, 19, who suffered broken hands and feet and fractures of her nose, rib, and elbow.
Ian Kinney’s mother, Deborah Kinney, told the judge there are more people killed in drunk driving crashes than are lost in wars.
“I don’t understand why we could have a war on terror, a war on drugs, but not a war on DUI murderers. I feel our laws have to change,” she added. “We have to protect (people).”
Deborah Kinney also made reference to recent drunk driving victims, a pregnant woman on New Year’s Day in San Diego.
Scott Kinney, the victim’s father, said Shimp had “crushed away the lives of two...with depraved indifference.” He said his son’s death left the family “a hellish nightmare that we cannot escape from.”
“It was not Ian’s time. Fate was not responsible for Ian losing his life. Shannon Shimp was,” said Katie Watson, the victim’s sister-in-law.
“Shannon Shimp got lucky twice,” said Watson, adding that Shimp survived the crash and was acquitted of murder.
Watson said Ian’s parents have left his room in their Julian home still full with his possessions.
“His clothes still hang in his closet just as he left them,” said Watson.
Derek Watson, the victim’s older brother, said Shimp had “a history of poor decisions.” He said Shimp ignored a warning by a bartender not to drive in his condition and Shimp tried to pass three vehicles on a blind curve.
The parents of Kinney’s girlfriend said she has more than $100,000 in medical bills, and they told the judge of her extensive injuries. Her broken bones were treated, but nothing can fix “her broken heart,” said Becky Medearis.
Becky Medearis said she received the call of the crash while she was in a theater watching the Batman movie, Dark Knight, which she said seemed like a foreshadowing of what was to come. She said hospital officials told her that Tess was alive, but that Ian was dead. She said they rushed out of the theater to the hospital.
“I went through the most horrible thing,” said Tess Medearis, who described how her boyfriend died beside her with the truck crushing on top of them.
“The car was literally inside of his body,” she said, adding that she had to be sedated while in the hospital.
Sherri Edwards, the victim’s widow, and her two sons were not at the sentencing because it was too painful, but Deputy District Attorney Monte Bennett read the letter the widow had submitted.
“I am left to grow old alone...The sadness will never leave us,” she wrote.
Bennett said Shimp was driving at .19 blood/alcohol level, which is twice the legal limit for drunk driving.
“He showed no concern for the victims, or Mr. Edwards, who lay dead beside him,” said Bennett, who added that Shimp was “drunk and acting belligerent” and had even “flipped off” CHP officers.
Shimp’s attorney, Kerry Steigerwalt, said his client suffered head injuries, broken bones, and was in a great deal of pain after the crash. He said Shimp was driving despite a suspended license, but that was due to not registering the vehicle properly, and he had no drunk driving convictions.
“I’d like to apologize to the Kinney family and Joseph Edwards’ family,” said Shimp. “I didn’t plan on hurting anyone that day. I’m just so very sorry. I don’t know if words can say how sorry I am.”
Shimp’s father, William Shimp, described his son as “a very good man” who helped people after the Cedar wildfire in 2003. William Shimp got permission from the judge to address the victims’ families, and he turned around and faced them.
“Shannon wants to speak to you. He’s unable to. Shannon cannot express the sorrow we feel. He’s so sorry,” said William Shimp. “There’s nothing we can do to bring Mr. Kinney back or Mr. Edwards.”
Shannon Shimp’s only prior conviction stems from 1991 when he was convicted of setting up a booby trap where he was cultivating marijuana when he was 18 years old, said the prosecutor. Steigerwalt said it was not much of a booby trap, as it consisted of ropes and a board with nails or screws.