Running Scared

Shawna Rush worked with troubled teens. Then she was killed by one.

"We have kids with some serious mental-health issues, and they need treatment," Long says. "Stephanie Huff is a perfect example of what can happen when there's no safety net."

Safety net or not, Shawna Rush's family says there's no excuse for what Stephanie did. At first they felt sorry for her. She was only fifteen and certainly never intended to kill anyone. But two days after Stephanie was caught by police after fleeing the scene of the accident, she managed to run away again. And that, Nikki says, is when "our sympathy went out the door. She knew what she did to Shawna, and she still ran."

Shawna Rush
Shawna Rush
A bruised and battered Stephanie Huff after she drove 
a truck into Shawna Rush's home.
A bruised and battered Stephanie Huff after she drove a truck into Shawna Rush's home.

While transporting Stephanie and two boys between court hearings in Fort Collins and a juvenile facility in Greeley, a community-corrections employee stopped at the Larimer County Department of Human Services to pick up another child. The employee left the van running, and Stephanie reportedly squeezed through a security window separating the front from the back and drove away. The two boys were found that night, but Stephanie eluded police until the next day, when she was found hiding in an Evans home.

For that, Stephanie was charged as a juvenile with vehicular eluding, first-degree aggravated motor-vehicle theft and escape from a pending felony. The Larimer County District Attorney's Office requested that the case be transferred to district court, where Stephanie would be charged as an adult. That request will be considered during a hearing on February 12. Two days before that, Stephanie will enter a plea in the vehicular-homicide case. Stephanie is being held at the Larimer County Detention Center on separate bonds of $500,000 and $50,000 for the two cases against her. She is not receiving any treatment or counseling.

Nikki feels that Stephanie simply didn't have the respect for others that her parents had instilled in her and Shawna. She and Roy would like to see her get help, but they also want to make sure she can't escape again. "She needs to be confined, whether it's behind bars or behind a gate," Nikki says. "If she's given another chance, she'll run."

When Tyressa and Kay first heard about the accident, they could relate to Stephanie. "It was like, 'That could have been any of us,'" Kay says. "Most of us have had thoughts of running away."

But the two of them say people deserve only so many chances. "I'm grateful that I got a second chance; not everyone does," says Kay, who plans to make the most of hers. She wants to go to college and become an obstetrician.

Tyressa is also committed to changing her behavior. "Shawna did a lot of the stuff we did, and she changed. She had such an impact on me, and I want to be able to have an impact on others," says Tyressa, who also hopes to attend college and plans to someday open a day-care center.

Even Linda thinks Stephanie needs to do time. She just wonders whether all of this could have been avoided had Stephanie gotten the proper treatment. Instead, the Rushes lost their daughter, and Stephanie is facing up to 24 years in prison.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help