Syracuse Widow Says Proposed Law Won’t Stop Drunken Drivers Syracuse widow doesn't believe proposed law will help stop drunk drivers

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Sept .22, 2017, is a day Julie Rice never wish happened. Yet, this horrific day will forever be engrained in her life. It’s tattooed on her left wrist with a symbol that represents life and death.

Rice, lost her husband, 49-year-old Edward Rice, and her son, 22-year-old Robert Owens, on that Friday to a drunk driver car crash.

“I never ever ever in my life would’ve imagined, that my husband and son would’ve gotten killed by a drunk driver in the middle of the city, never!” Rice said.

That morning her husband said, “I love you” and headed to work.  Shortly after, Rice  took her son to work and before he got out of the car Robert kissed her on the forehead and said, “I love you.” Little did she know this would be the last time she would see them and the last words she would hear from them.

It was close to 7 that evening; her husband and son were heading home from work. A mile away on Shonnard and South West streets, police stopped Eric Dempsey for a traffic infraction.

“The vehicle in question was a 2002 Ford Explorer,” said Police Chief Fowler. “As police approached the vehicle, the driver (Dempsey) sped away from them. Police began to chase him through the neighborhood with  sirens on as he sped down Tallman Street. When he got to Lincoln Ave, he  slammed into Edward Rice’s car killing him at the scene.”

His stepson Robert Owens, who was in the passenger seat, was taken to the hospital where he later died.

Dempsey was charged with second-degree manslaughter and in April 2019, when the trial was scheduled to begin, he decided to take a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide (among other charges) and was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison.

“Now for the rest of our lives we are connected, and when the time comes for his parole, I gotta go through this all over again, every time,” Rice said. “Every two years.”

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 29% of all crash fatalities in 2018, which is more than 10,000 deaths according to the latest report from the NHTSA. A new bill proposed for the fourth time in the New York State legislature would lower the blood alcohol level from 0.08 to 0.05 to be arrested for driving while intoxicated.

The purpose of the bill is to reduce alcohol-impaired car crashes. Rice believes this bill will not stop people from getting behind the wheel intoxicated.

“What is the blood alcohol level going to matter,” Rice said.  She believes there needs to be stricter punishment laws.

“But I also feel like, if you are going to drive drunk it should be harsher,” Rice said.

She prays the day will come, but until then she spends her days seeking support through groups and connects with families who have lost loved ones to a drunk driver.

What also helps Rice push through the pain are the signs she receives time to time from her husband and son and the loving family memories she holds close to her heart.







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