The Kelly and Cumberland families had a lot in common. Both “old Coast” families whose roots dated back decades in the Orange Grove area of Gulfport. Coincidentally, both had homesteads on the same rural road in the county. Unfortunately, years of the lack of accountability for the choices of one would have deadly consequences on the other.
North Dakota passed legislation to strengthen DUI penalties in 2013. The deadly 2015 DUI crash you are about to learn about would be the precedent-setting case testing the mettle of the law. Three young women—two of them University of North Dakota students on summer break—met up for a night of fun. What they got was a parent’s worst nightmare.
We will also explore why North Dakota and other sparsely populated midwestern states have some of the highest DUI numbers per capita in America—and why that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
More than 35 years have passed since the crash that would go down in history as the worst DUI in American history. Thankfully, safety protocols have been installed since to prevent the type of horrific explosion that was ignited by a drunken driver that May 1988 day.
However, all 67 people aboard the Ratcliff First Assembly of God’s Church bus lives were altered for eternity.
Listen to Karolyn, Janet and Mandy tell you their memories of that day—and how their lives have been impacted by impaired driving.
For a nation that sprang from Puritanical beginnings, America moved quickly to one that glorified the rough and tumble, hard-drinking of the Old West. We moved into the 20th century and Americans fascination turned to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood movie stars with a drink in one hand and cigarette in the other…we followed their lead and culture shifted…. Adding automobiles to the mix brought a need for laws to curb some of our sins….
But, limiting civil rights in a country founded on freedom has not been an easy road.
Neither are roads filled with impaired drivers, however.
And we haven’t figured it out even still.
What does it mean to be legally impaired?
How much alcohol does it take?
This is America’s journey to discovering that too much of this “good thing” during pioneer days is deadly combined with our modern lifestyles.
Hear from a former Louisiana bartender about the “drive-thru” liquor store, from Mississippi’s renowned restauranteur and writer Robert St. John about how getting a DUI at 19 saved his life, and from a Mississippi man who explains why alcoholism and addiction are like fighting off the devil himself.
We all blame the driver in a DUI crash that injures or kills people or damages other’s property. But sometimes the problem isn’t just one person.
With a DUI crash, we typically turn the other way if we aren’t directly affected. We read stories and we get angry at the person who was driving drunk. In this case, it was Shelley Rose who drove drunk and killed innocent people.
It’s her fault, right?
Well, the story is so much more complicated than that.
No one dreams of growing up and becoming an alcoholic and killing people in a drunken or impaired car crash.
But some of us—all of us, actually, at times in different circumstances of life—need roadblocks, boundaries, mentors, tough love—to save us from ourselves.
Instead, Shelley Rose was her own worst enemy. Unfortunately, she had several partners in crime, including those sworn to protect us.
This is the story of how Shelley Rose arrived at that fateful Thanksgiving Day 2018.
On Thanksgiving Day 2018, Jada Bright, a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi woke up early and headed south from Hattiesburg to spend the holiday with family outside New Orleans.
It was Jada’s first trip home since her father died from cancer earlier that year. She had worked late the night before, waiting tables at Patio 44, and was excited to have a couple days off to spend with loved ones and not worry about classes or work.
Also that morning, 45-year-old Alabama businessman Evans Vincent, who had long been estranged from his two teenage sons, headed west, planning to spend his first holiday in a decade with his sons in Texas. His car was loaded with Christmas and birthday presents for his boys.
48-year-old Shelly Rose, a Mississippi transplant living with friends in Lake Charles, had spent the previous two nights in jail—in two neighboring Mississippi towns, having been arrested for a 4th and 5th DUI-although the small town police chief made the decision—on Thanksgiving eve to charge her with the lesser offense of public drunkenness because it was far less paperwork to process.
Shelly had only had her driver’s license back one month from it having been suspended for a previous DUI in Florida.
A stumbling and still disoriented Shelly “bargained” her way out of lock-up in Ellisville, Mississippi. A police officer took her to the tow yard to retrieve her rented Dodge Caravan after hours. And she was released in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving—still over the legal BAC limit and handed the keys to the rented van she had damaged while driving intoxicated.
At 10 a.m., she spoke to the family friend, Marsha, who had been expecting her for two days, not knowing she had been drinking again—and had been arrested. Marsha told Shelly when she got back to Lake Charles, it was time to find another place to live. Her patience had worn out.
She would be the last person to speak to Shelly.
Shortly after 10:20 a.m., Shelly got on the interstate at the off-ramp near Lumberton, Mississippi. Kristy Thompson, a Hattiesburg realtor, headed to Slidell with her boyfriend, saw Shelly headed straight toward them and veered into the other lane. Kristy quickly let down the window, waving frantically to get her attention to warn her she was headed the wrong direction. But Shelly never looked over. As Jason rounded the bend in I-59, Kristy was already dialing 911. “Someone is going to die right now,” she screamed, trying to explain to the dispatcher what was about to ensue. The traffic was heavy just a few hundred yards in their rear-view mirror.
There was nothing they could do.
The second season of Telling Lives, I chose to explore the continued societal problem of DUI and impairment in American culture and examine how to affect change.
I’ll share stories from around the country—in Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky and other states—going back to the worst DUI crash in American history that killed 27 in 1988—to a police chief and father who lost his own daughter weeks before her wedding—and a father out walking who was killed—and his own daughter was left without her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding this year.
I’ll also share stories of the good that can come from choosing the right course before tragedy strikes and what taking that path leads to—I talked to a nationally-renowned chef whose DUI at age 21 made him seek rehab and redemption in Christ and he hasn’t touched alcohol since.
I have looked at data from a dozen states and talked to people involved in DUIs from every angle—victims, survivors, perpetrators, police, friends, doctors, bartenders and more.
These stories bear witness to America’s drinking and drugged driving problem and how we got here—why don’t we treat impaired driving like the serious crime it is after the first or even second offense—and why we must, especially in the current political climate of more states every year legalizing the use of marijuana.
My prayer is that listeners will empathize and be encouraged to make choices that don’t hurt themselves or kill others—-that choosing to do the right thing will become the American thing again.
This season is dedicated to the memory of Jada Bright.
Contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela’s best friend shares her memories of Angela’s terrifying visit to the Mahned Bridge and the last few weeks before she went missing and the weeks afterward when it seemed so many mistakes were being made. Also, Debra has encounters with Stephen Lindsey and Larry Posey years after Angela’ disappearance, which couldn’t have been more different. Finally, where Angela’s case stands today and what law enforcement is currently doing in the case.
Contact the podcast team at email@example.com
Nearing the new millennium, a new breed of detective coupled with major advances in technology impacted the Angela Freeman investigation. For a brief moment it looked like answers might finally be available to explain just what happened that night at the Mahned Bridge.
Contact the podcast team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at tellinglives.blubrry.net. Join the Telling Lives FaceBook group!