Rocky Mountain News

HomeNewsLocal News

Light sentence in fatal hit-and-run devastates family of victim

Westminster man may serve only up to six years in death of 8-year-old boy

Published January 25, 2008 at 5:45 p.m.
Updated January 25, 2008 at 5:45 p.m.

Until this very day Lisel Von Duyke finds it difficult to believe her 8-year-old son was killed in a hit-and-run accident six months ago while riding a go-cart on a country road in Westminster.

The mother of six now finds it hard to believe that the Westminster man who killed her son — and then fled the scene and days later went camping in Steamboat Springs — may only serve up to six years in prison.

She says Daniels deserves to spend far more time behind bars for taking a young life.

"My problem is that he left my boy in the road to die," Von Duyke said, her voice cracking. "He was cavalier about it. He said he looked in the rearview mirror and thought the boys were fine. He said 'No harm, no foul.'"

"My boys lay on the road hurt and dying. He knew something serious happened. He went to his home, a block away from the accident and watched TV news reports. Three days passed and he said nothing. Then he went camping. He purposely chose not to speak up."

On Thursday, Sean Christopher Daniels, 32, plead guilty to two felony counts and two traffic offenses for having hit Von Duyke's two sons, killing the youngest.

Daniels plead guilty in Jefferson County District Court to the leaving the scene of the accident resulting in death, tampering with physical evidence, failure to report an accident and leaving the scene of an accident.

The Jefferson County District Attorney Office reached a plea agreement with Daniels.

Pam Russell, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said that problem lies with state law.

The most serious charged that can be brought against a person leaving the scene of accident resulting in death is a class four felony, which carries a sentence of two to six years in prison.

The misdemeanors Daniels pleaded guilty to carry a possible county jail sentence of up to a year.

"Let me make it clear, we believe leaving the scene of an accident in which a child was killed is a serious offense," Russell said. "It's our understanding that the family is working with lawmakers to make sure that someone leaving the scene of an accident is held more accountable. We're supportive of that effort."

In June, Quinton Von Duyke, 8, and his brother Kaeden, 10, were riding a go-cart on West 96th Avenue near North Pierce Street in Westminster when Daniels hit the go-cart from behind. Kaeden was thrown clear, but Quinton, who was wearing a seat belt, was killed.

Daniels kept on driving and never reported the accident to police. Westminster police traced the vehicle to Daniels and he was arrested a week later in Steamboat Springs where he was camping.

The Von Duykes and other family members are lobbying state lawmakers to upgrade the felony charge for a hit and run resulting in death to at least a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.

The family expressed no ill will toward the district attorney's office.

They simply find it disheartening that Daniels will likely receive a light prison sentence because authorities couldn't prove conclusively that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Russell said that Daniels had been drinking that day, but police couldn't prove it by time they captured him in Steamboat Springs a week after the accident.

"The problem is that hit-and-runs are light felonies," said former state Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, whose brother is the grandfather of Von Duyke's children.

"People hit and run because if they kill someone while driving drunk they could be in the slammer for years and years. So they'll run away instead of helping the victim."

By comparison, the drunken driver who killed a mother and her two children last year in downtown Denver and then fled the scene of the accident received 48 years in prison.

Larry Trujillo received 16 years per family member for his role in the deaths of Becca Bingham, her daughter, Marcie, 4, and her son garrison, 2.

Von Duyke said she knows the amount of time Daniels actually serves in prison won't bring her son back.

Her focus now is making sure other families won't suffer through a similar tragedy.

"We're struggling all the time with his death," she said. "We have our kids in counseling. We're in counseling. Our lives will never be the same."

Back to Top

Search »