“She was a good person and was committed to making the world a better place”
A mother’s love: by Diane Rickard
Jen was born on July 7, 1986 in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. She weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces and was 21 1/2 inches long. She quickly grew out of her newborn outfits and was clearly born to make a BIG impact in more ways than one! Jen was born around horses and in her later years her passion was spent caring for disabled horses in Michigan.
At age 3, Jen moved to Michigan. She was a very happy child and excelled in school. She enjoyed summer camps with her church, sang in the choir at school and played a lot of parts in her drama classes and she loved to read! If she was not swimming, riding her bike or playing with her friends, she was reading! She was a good person and was committed to “making the world a better place” at a young age. She wrote an essay for the “Dare to keep your kids off drugs” program in high school and it was selected out of the many submissions.
Jen graduated from high school early and wanted to start college to get her bachelor’s degree incriminal justice. She had an internship in the Federal Building in Detroit and was selected out of thousands to be part of training at the Michigan State Police. Jen made it 16 weeks at training but failed the firearms portion. While this was disappointing for Jen, my husband and I were relieved that she would not be a Michigan State Police Officer because we couldn’t help but worry for her safety.
This setback did not stop Jen. She landed a fantastic job as a Forensic Technician with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. After a few years, Jen wanted more challenges. She started interviewing all over the United States and received job offers in Forensics with the Michigan State Police, the Virginia Commonwealth and agencies in Houston Texas. Her supervisor at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office received so many calls for reference for Jen that he summoned her into his office and asked what it would take to keep her. Not long after, Jen was promoted to a Deputy, passed her firearms test and was given the position of Forensic Specialist. Jen helped solve many cases for them. She would accept extra on-call assignments for the over-time, traveled at night a lot and was often seen on the news. At her funeral, they joked that she still arrived on time to work after a late-night shift and never – ever yawned – what’s with that?
Shortly after Jen received her promotion, she married the love of her life, Todd, and they celebrated their one-year anniversary with her brother in Pipe Creek Texas in August of that year.
Less than two months after that wonderful anniversary trip, on Sunday, October 1, 2017, my precious daughter, who had a full life ahead of her, was killed.The weather was not the best that Saturday when Jen arrived in Florida with her husband Todd. But, my husband, Don and I felt we had a perfect bittersweet visit with her. We played miniature golf despite light rain, had a delicious dinner at Joey’s Restaurant and even had her favorite treat for dessert, fat free frozen yogurt because she was one of “those people” who ate healthy and worked out regularly.
Sunday morning, Jen was excited to go for a jog in my new neighborhood, wearing my shoes. I still can still hear her laughter as she made fun of my shoes and said they were “strange” because they had springs in them.After breakfast, we headed out to Orlando to meet their friends for a day at the water park. I was so very grateful that before leaving she took the time to pose with me outside on my front porch. Never did I expect it to be my last visit and picture with Jen.
That same night I was restless and for some reason worried about my daughter. A little after midnight, my phone rang, and I saw that is was Todd. I knew immediately this could not be good. He was crying hysterically and said that Jennifer had been hit by a car. I would later learn that Jen was walking a few feet behind the group in a crosswalk and a driver who had been drinking, brutally struck her going 57 miles per hour. Her body rolled over the hood, smashed into the windshield and hit the side mirror before flying and landing into traffic approximately 100 feet away. Todd rushed to her side and thought that she was already dead. Her lips were blue, and her eyes were open, but she was not responding. She still had a pulse, so paramedics did CPR all the way to the hospital and she was later placed on a ventilator.
Todd was sobbing so loud; he could barely breathe, and the sheriff took the phone to give me directions to the hospital. He said the medical team was doing everything possible for her and to come quickly.I gave the phone to my husband because I was trembling terribly and praying and begging God for a miracle.
About 10 minutes into our drive to the hospital, I got another call from Todd crying and he said, “Jen’s pulse stopped”. Her body had tried to fight back but the trauma to the brain was too severe. It took all my strength to ask if they would keep her body there until I arrived, and he replied “yes”.Now I was heading to the hospital to see my deceased daughter and I told myself to be strong for my son-in-law. At this point, I was numb.I looked over at my husband and saw him crying. He said that he was hoping that my son-in-law was exaggerating, and that it was not as bad as they thought.
Once we arrived at the hospital, a grief counselor was waiting for us and she escorted us to see Jen. I did not want to hug her cold body. I wanted to remember the warm hug I got on the porch that morning.We prayed and all I could focus on was the bruising on her pretty face that was so filled with life and happiness earlier that day. I did not like the “tag” on her finger that announced she was dead.
Since she was “one of their own”, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department posted honor guards at her side until she reached Michigan and then Oakland County took over. This was beautiful and very emotional. When they brought her body out with a flag over it, I cried heavily. She was not supposed to leave Florida this way. I cried just about every day for six months straight and now I can only describe it as if it is like a “limp” after a broken bone that becomes a normal part of your life.
A BIG Loss happened October 1, 2017 and it was 100% preventable.We lost a beautiful daughter in one split second. We lost the opportunity to meet and love thegrandchildren our daughter would mother. Friends said they lost someone who kept them out of trouble and never judged them.I truly believe Jen’s heart could not stop when she was struck by that car because Jen was fighting to stay and HELP those who needed it. I think after a while, she was divinely reminded that WE can and will continue her work for her.I hope Jen’s story impacts your life, like she did mine.May you share it freely, ponder it wisely and know that she would want to leave a gentle footprint on your heart.
Sgt. Vincent Turocy, 2018 MADD Tennessee Statewide Night of Remembrance and Awards Ceremony:
MADD Tennessee State Advisory Board Law Enforcement Chair, Sgt. Vincent Turocy of the Tennessee Highway Patrol set aside a few moments during the 2018 Annual MADD Tennessee Statewide Night of Remembrance and Awards Ceremony to talk about why we are grateful for the support and attendance of those who help us recognize our law enforcement heroes for what they do. We felt his encouraging words were worth sharing again as a reminder to those who may wonder why they should participate in and/or attend a MADD law enforcement recognition event.
“Each year we have this banquet, it continues to grow. We are thankful for the support from your department’s leadership in allowing you to attend and be recognized for the work you do throughout the year.
One officer asked me “Why am I being recognized for doing my job? I haven’t done anything special.”The fact is, you have. Every impaired driver taken off the roadway or waterway is a potential life saved, or a potential disability prevented.
This banquet also provides an opportunity for victims to express their gratitude for the work “YOU” do to prevent futures losses like they have suffered and on some occasions thank the officer or first responder that helped them through their trying time.
So each year you make the list, we appreciate you coming and being recognized because it not only gives an opportunity for different victims to personally thank you, but it solidifies our partnership and our mutual goals to eliminate impaired driving and ultimately to eliminate fatal and injury crashes due to impaired drivers.
Each of you can be the catalyst that ignites change within your community. Next year, bring a newer officer here and let them experience what we do and why we do it. Show them how they can affect change. Who knows, we may have some Paul Steins, Chad Staggs, Jeff Buckners, or William Travis’s out there waiting to be discovered. So preserve that fire that drives you and when you’re ready to move on to a different path, be sure to pass the torch to someone just as ambitious and passionate as you are when it comes to Impaired Driving Enforcement. They may save your life.
-Sgt. Vincent Turocy
Editor’s note: In a normal year, MADD hosts nearly 100 law enforcement recognition events (LERs) across the country. In 2020, due to COVID-19, all the MADD LERs are being held virtually. We certainly hope that 2021 will allow us to get back to in-person banquets that will allow us to again hold LERs in person to honor the many law enforcement heroes who so passionately enforce and provideeducation on the dangers of impaired driving.
Officer Victor Salinas is committed to DWI enforcement and has consistently ranked #2 in the agency for total DWI arrests for the past two years.
He has dedicated his time and efforts to conducting presentations for Alton youth on the importance of refraining from driving impaired and underage drinking, or engaging in distracted driving. Officer Salinas’ dedication earned him the Mother’s Against Drunk Driving Commitment Hero Award in 2020.
Officer Salinas is scheduled to become a certified Standardized Field Sobriety TestInstructor for his department as well as an Intoxylizer Operator.
MADD is proud to select Officer Victor Salinas as its September 2020 Officer of the Month. Special thanks to Ana Verley, Victim Services Specialist and Cynthia Sauceda, Program Specialist from the MADD South Texas Affiliate in Edinburg for nominating Officer Salinas.
Strong drunk driving laws are key to saving lives. That is why we’re so grateful to our legislative partners who have championed MADD’s mission to end the No. 1 killer on our nation’s roads. It is why, each year, we honor lawmakers whose outstanding work has put us closer to a future of No More Victims.
These are MADD’s 2019 legislative heroes in Congress:
The RIDE and HALT Acts introduced in 2019 would require alcohol detection technology in all new vehicles.
Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan introduced legislation to require drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles days after the Jan. 6, 2019 drunk driving crash claimed the lives of an entire Northville family. Dingell proposed a more wide-ranging measure in September. The Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act requires federal regulatory action by 2024 to install drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles. The HALT Act is named for the five members of the Abbas family killed in this unthinkable tragedy: Issam and Rima Abbas and their three children, Ali, 13, Isabella, 12, and Giselle, 7. Thanks to Rep. Dingell’s leadership and tenacity on this issue, there is now momentum behind taking action to require life-saving systems in all vehicles.
MADD meets with Rep. Nita Lowey, a 2019 MADD legislative champion for her work to end drunk driving.
Representative Nita Lowey of New York has worked for decades to end the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving. Throughout her career, she has been a genuine force in this ongoing fight, including championing the successful effort to establish a national standard of .08 BAC, which has saved thousands of lives. Recently, Rep. Lowey proposed legislation to encourage more states to pass laws requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. Thirty-four states, including New York, currently have these laws, which have prevented more than 3 million attempts to drive drunk in the last 12 years. Additionally, through her position as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Lowey has worked to accelerate the development of in-vehicle technologies to prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida introduced a bipartisan measure in October that could ultimately end drunk driving in America. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act by Sens. Scott and Tom Udall of New Mexico would require the installation of passive advanced drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles within four years. This technology would prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle and save 7,000 lives a year. Sen. Scott is also a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which is responsible for motor vehicle and highway safety programs and legislation. He has quickly emerged as a national legislative leader in the fight to eliminate drunk driving.
MADD has recognized Rep. Jan Schakowsky for a lifetime of work to end drunk driving.
Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois chaired a March 2019 hearing of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee that focused on the government-auto industry research program supported primarily by government funds for more than a decade. At that hearing, MADD National President Helen Witty challenged the auto industry to move drunk driving prevention technology development out of the research labs and make it available to consumers as soon as possible, where it could save as many as 7,000 lives a year. Rep. Schakowsky is committed to motor vehicle safety and a true advocate in the fight to end drunk driving.
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has consistently taken a leadership role in the fight to reduce drunk driving, including leading efforts to provide funding for a research program to develop a passive system for preventing a drunk driver from operating a vehicle. Now Senator Udall is working with Senator Scott of Florida on bipartisan legislation that would take the results of that research out of the laboratory and make the technology standard equipment in all new vehicles, like many other life-saving safety systems. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act has the potential to save 7,000 lives a year and will add to Senator Udall’s legacy of advancing meaningful measures to save lives and prevent injuries.
Sergeant Alvin Sugrañes-Lebrón was shot and killed at the main gate of the Guayama 500 Correctional Institution by a disgruntled corrections officer who worked at another facility. Unbeknownst to Sergeant Sugrañes-Lebrón... Read more »
Sergeant Mayra Rodríguez-Burgado died after contracting COVID-19 during a presumed exposure while on duty. Sergeant Rodríguez-Burgado had served with the Puerto Rico Police Department for 27 years. She is survived by... Read more »
Deputy Sheriff Angela Chavers died after contracting COVID-19 during an outbreak among staff and inmates Main Detention Center. Deputy Chavers had served with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for 18... Read more »
Deputy Sheriff Maurice Ford died after contracting COVID-19 during an outbreak among staff and inmate at the West Detention Center at 38811 James Wheeler Way in Belle Glade. Deputy Ford had... Read more »
Detective Peter Gianfrancesco died as the result of cancer that he developed following his assignment to the search and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site following the 9/11... Read more »
Detective Jose Mora died after contracting COVID-19 while transporting a homicide suspect back to Fresno County from Oklahoma. Detective Mora had served with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office for 16 years... Read more »
Corporal Charles Holt died after contracting COVID-19 at the Tarrant County Corrections Center while working at the booking desk. Corporal Holt had served with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office for six... Read more »
MADD’s 2020 Court Monitoring Report was recently released and can be found at this link. Of interest, nationally, the conviction rate is only 59% in the 15 states where MADD currently has court monitors. The report also lists state by state reports.
MADD National Law Enforcement Impaired Driving Summit Final Report
In November of 2018, MADD hosted a National Law Enforcement Impaired Driving Summit. Executive level law enforcement officers attended and discussed and identified barriers to strong impaired driving enforcement. This link will take you to the final report for the Summit which identifies those barriers and offers solutions to improve enforcement.