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Why We’re Here: The Bassi Family
By MADD | December 4, 2013| 10 Comments | Filed in: Victim Stories , Drunk Driving

Denise and Gerard Bassi

On Christmas morning in 2007, Denise and Gerard Bassi called their daughter, Melanie, to wish her a Merry Christmas.  For the first time, the Bassis and their three daughters, Melanie, Jennifer and Michelle, weren’t spending Christmas day together because Denise and Gerard were spending the holiday with Denise’s parents in Florida, and their daughters were unable to make the trip.

The Bassis celebrated Christmas with their daughters a week early, before they headed out of town a few days before Christmas. While in Florida, they spoke often with their daughters and each day of their trip had fun stories to tell—they were having a great time.

Christmas day, on the way to a family member’s house for dinner, they were stopped at a traffic light when a 34-year old man driving at a very high rate of speed smashed into the rear of their truck – “like a missile into a building” as one witness described it. 

Gerard Bassi died at the scene, Denise died a few hours later in surgery, and Denise’s mother, Linda McWilliams, died a week later from her injuries.  Denise’s father, Ray McWilliams, survived, but the crash caused permanent injuries that greatly affected his life. 

Linda and Ray McWilliams

The man who hit them not only survived, but had no major injuries. He was driving under the influence of alcohol, Xanax, and cocaine, and this was not the first time he was arrested for DUI.   

Though the offender was arrested shortly after the crash, pretrial went on for years and the criminal trial was postponed twice.  Finally, the trial was set to begin on August 23, 2011.  The offender was facing approximately 35 years to life in prison.  Exactly one week prior to the start of the trial, he pled guilty to the DUI charges and was sentenced to 12 years in jail followed by 10 years of probation.

“Not only is there the immediate loss, the sting of losing so many loved ones, but the long fight for justice was frustrating and grueling,” said Melanie Bassi.

The family was connected with a MADD victim advocate in Florida, who provided victim services during the trial. Melanie says, “Working with MADD was extremely helpful and I greatly appreciate their support. “

Melanie now shares the story of how her life changed in an instant as a speaker for MADD.  Among other activities with MADD, she speaks at Victim Impact Panels and school programs and says it is her way of giving back.

This holiday season, please keep victims like the Bassi family in mind as you celebrate with friends and loved ones. Always plan ahead with a non-drinking designated driver and remind others to do the same. 

The Bassi Family




Submitted by Rosie at 11:58 PM on December 27, 2013
I know the feeling of losing a loved one, my daughter, Cherie was killed by a drunk driver 11 years ago after just graduating from college, getting ready to be her sister's maid of honor and starting a new job. Going to her sister's to show Connie her new car she was hit by a drunk not stopping at a stop sign at a very high rate of speed. Rolled her Explorer several times by hitting her in the side with his Mustang. He had no serious injuries because the couple that saw the accident said he came over to the car and begged Cherie not to die but her aorta was torn from her heart and she was gone quickly. After about of year of trials and he finally plead guilty he received 3 years. But to lose 3 members of a family due to a person who didn't care to be safe and not drive, my heart goes out, we know our loved ones will not be forgotten but it's just not right. Prayers for anyone who has this loss.
Submitted by Dont understand. at 07:19 PM on December 26, 2013
I also lost my son to a repeat offender. This person is now out of jail after just 5 years. Out 7 years early for good behavior. I do not know what the answer is. The laws, the offenders, the court systems just seem to keep failing. I try not to get involved in these sad stories but after just having my only son's memorial on Dec. 15th, 10 days before Christmas and 3 weeks from his birthday... I just have any answers anymore. I have sat in the State House, listened to laws being shot down again and again. It's a losing batter and we have lost the most.. our loved ones! Forever.
Submitted by Jimi at 08:09 PM on December 25, 2013
I feel so bad for the family. I lost my wife to a drunk driver and had to endure the 2 year trial only to have the Drunk driver plead guilty as well. 2 years for a life. It was also a hit and run, later turned in.
Submitted by upset at 07:58 PM on December 15, 2013
What is MADD doing about the interlocks that are being bypassed by a company. I saw this on Larry Barker. The company we trust with our lives on the road was rigging interlock devices. What a slap in the face to those of us who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers.
Submitted by pissed off at 01:40 PM on December 9, 2013
I am so angry watching these drunks drink and drive on this show. what gives them the right to do so, putting innocent people in jeopardy. Why do they have to learn the hard way? They know the consequences of their actions and they do it anyway. They only seem bothered by the fact that they may face jail time and pay fines, not the fact that they may have killed someone. My brother was killed by a drunk 4 yrs ago and it has devastated my whole family.
Submitted by Mike at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2013
What a horrible tragedy that was 100% preventable.
Submitted by donna at 08:12 PM on December 5, 2013
to the Bassi family: my heart and prayers go out to all of you. it is such a shame that time after time you read about drunk drivers, who intentionally chose to drink and drive, get behind the wheel and kill someone. and time and time again this was NOT their first DUI. its awful innocent lives are taken away from loved ones and the DRUNK DRIVER walks away from the accident not hurt.the punishment is not harsh enough for the DRUNK DRIVER. 12 years is no where enough for the 3 precious lives he took away from a loving family and the 1 life he caused permanent damage to, and the many lives affected by losing loved ones. i am so sorry for your loss. may GOD give you all comfort and strength.
Submitted by NEVER FORGOTTEN at 03:36 PM on December 5, 2013
I am so sorry to hear of your loses & the pain we go through.Our families also experienced such tragedy's. The offenders seem to get off easy. I hope & Pray in my heart that they also feel pain that we have felt & that they is some way are affected by what they have done to families. Our loved ones will never be forgotten.
Submitted by Heartbreaking at 10:55 PM on December 4, 2013
My heart goes out to Melanie, Jennifer and Michelle Bassi in the horrific deaths of your parents and grandmother. I am absolutely horrified by the 12-year prison sentence, which essentially translates to six years behind bars, for the offender. Wasn't the offender charged with DUI homicide or was he under the legal limit of .08 BAC?
Submitted by Brandon Oleski at 10:46 PM on December 4, 2013
Dear Bassi family, I am a freshman college student doing a research project on drunk driving and ways to decrease the amount of deaths, along with injuries, per year. Your story impacted me and really helped me find ways of my own to try and prevent those around me to spread the word that driving drunk leads to others suffering and it needs to stop. i am sorry for your losses and hope I can help in anyway, shape, or form. Prayers go out to your family and may god bless you.

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