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Three Reasons…Please Don’t Drink and Drive!!!
The Jahn story
November 26, 2008 was a normal enough day. The Jahn children, four year-old Ryan and 11 month-old Kaitlyn visited with their grandparents while their mother, 27 year-old Amanda Jahn, taught a violin lesson in Morris. Their route home that evening was Illinois-47 south from Morris. They would never make it. At that same time, Ann Marie Getz, was careening toward them with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit. She would ignore the stop sign where the Gardner Blacktop intersects Route 47, t-boning the car carrying Amanda and her children sending it spinning and rolling into an adjacent cornfield. Joshua Jahn, Amanda’s husband of nearly eight years and father of the children was a volunteer firefighter. He first heard of the crash over his emergency scanner. Fearing the worst, he drove to the scene. He arrived in time to see his son being loaded into an ambulance.
The crash was horrific. The children, despite being in child safety seats, were both ejected from the car. Amanda was pinned inside and had to be extricated. She was pronounced dead at the scene from massive internal injuries. The children, who also suffered extreme internal injuries, were pronounced dead at the hospital after resuscitation efforts failed.
The crash and charges made the AP Newswire and Chicago Tribune headlines when it was discovered that Getz had a valid driver’s license despite having two prior DUI convictions in the early 2000’s and a variety of other traffic violations going back 20 years. This case became a call for stricter penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
Ultimately, Getz pleaded guilty on May 19, 2009 to the offense of Aggravated Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Because more than one person died, she would be eligible for a sentence to the Illinois Department of Corrections of six to twenty-eight years. Getz had been in the county jail since her release from the hospital some days after the wreck.
The sentencing hearing took place on July 29, 2009 before Circuit Court Judge Robert Marsaglia. The Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office presented evidence including statements from Joshua Jahn and Amanda’s parents, Tom and Kandi Borneman, who were among the last to see the victims before the crash. After all the evidence, Judge Marsaglia pronounced the sentence: 24 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Getz will have to serve 85 percent of this sentence, a minimum of 20 years. She received 285 days credit for time served at the time of the sentence. She will be in her early 60’s when she is released.
The children were described by State’s Attorney Sheldon Sobol as “innocent, sweet, loving and a source of great joy to all.” He also indicated that Amanda was “a loving mother and wife whose smile and bubbly personality were capable of lighting up any situation.” He hopes that the severity of the sentence will deter people from driving under the influence and causing more tragedies of this sort.
Despite losing his entire family in one brief instant, Josh has not retreated into his grief. Instead, he has become a powerful voice encouraging others to make responsible decisions so this heartbreak is not repeated in another family. Even before the case was resolved, he spoke out asking people to remember his family when they considered their choice to drive after drinking.
He has spoken at numerous functions since then warning people about the dangers of drinking and driving. He also diligently pushes for stronger DUI penalties. He has dedicated his life to spreading the message that drinking and driving kills. His next appearance is scheduled on December 7th at 4:00 p.m. for Mayor Daley’s annual candlelight vigil in the City of Chicago Council Chambers where he will speak out for the victims of drunk driving.
In the words of Joshua Jahn, “Every morning I am faced with the reality that Mandy, Ryan and Kaitlyn are gone. They were the victims of a selfish and senseless act…If you know someone who struggles with alcohol abuse, be a good example for them. Please don’t let them drink and drive…You can make the difference. One simple choice can mean life or death for someone else. Please, the next time you are faced with that choice, remember these words and remember Mandy, Ryan and Kaitlyn. I believe it’s within all our desires to see that this is prevented so it doesn’t ever come into another man’s family.”