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From the week of July 21, 2005

This letter is not an endorsement of what he did to his mother. I do not provide these examples as an excuse or reason for what took place at all. I do this because, in retrospect, I now understand that this ball began rolling years before Julie Ybanez was brutally murdered, and if more of our eyes had been open to what was going on in Nathan's life, I truly feel that his mother would be alive today. He was a dead man walking before he left Nebraska.

Jonnique Peter
Omaha, Nebraska

Class dismissed:I was somewhat glad to finally get the true story of what had happened with the Nathan Ybanez situation. I have heard different accounts, and it was hard to figure out what was fact and what was fiction. You see, I attended eighth grade at Brownell-Talbot in Omaha with Nathan. I only got to know him for a year, but within that year everybody knew his mom was crazy. Even the school officials knew it. We were in between our sophomore and junior year when we heard about the murder. The cops had called the school to get his school records, and one of our classmate's mom worked for the school, so the news spread pretty quickly.

One incident has always stuck in my mind: At an end-of-the-year party (numerous people were leaving to attend high school at another school), we were sitting around a classmate's house watching movies. Nathan's mother called every ten minutes to yell at him (which is why I was not surprised to hear that her calls cost him a job). Am I saying he had a right to do it? Of course not, but in that situation I can't say what I would and wouldn't have done.

Looking back, I'm sure everyone who was in our class is wondering if we could have done something back then to prevent what happened in the future. I guess that's something that will always be stuck in our minds.

Melissa Jones
Omaha, Nebraska


There Auto Be a Law

A walk on the wild side:Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Crash Course," in the July 7 issue:

It's extremely tragic that Sonja DeVries's life was snuffed out by 55-year-old Ramon Romero, a drunk driver, who took her life so carelessly! Most of the jerks like Romero are repeat offenders. People like this will never learn. Why Romero's driver's license wasn't permanently revoked is disturbing.

There is mass publicity and broad knowledge regarding responsible drinking, the reckless behavior and outcome of taking a human life through drunk driving, and family members losing loved ones. Our country has enormous programs, such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers), and we encourage friends not to "let friends drive drunk"; additionally, cab companies are willing to give an incoherent, intoxicated driver a ride home for free. Why are we still having this problem?

The maximum sentence of 24 years for Ramon Romero doesn't come close to what he deserves for his reckless, stupid behavior. I have a better idea: Wrap him up and send him off to Iraq to fight! Perhaps this will give him food for thought!

I am a pedestrian (other than city transit, I choose to walk to most places), and I am amazed at the reckless disdain that motorists have for pedestrians -- failing to stop appropriately at crosswalks, running red lights, etc. I find I use as much energy seeking to determine if I am safe as I do walking across an intersection. And, of course, there are the drunk drivers such as Ramon Romero.

Diane Bellamy
Denver

Unsafe at any speed:We attended the sentencing of Ramon Romero, who was convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of our friend Sonja DeVries. We listened to Sonja's voice on a tape recorder, witnessed the pain in the compassionate eyes of Judge Michael Martinez, and watched as Mr. Romero was led from the courtroom in chains. This tragedy could have been avoided were it not for the inactivity of current and past state legislators. Sadly, we live in a state that seems to ignore alcohol abuse on our highways.

Our family has been the repeated victim of drunk drivers, and these deaths point to the General Assembly being either oblivious or unwilling to create laws capable of protecting both the innocent and those like Mr. Romero, who are unable to conquer alcohol abuse, from the lethal combination of drinking and driving.

As a consequence of repeated indolence on the part of Colorado lawmakers, we watched our tears and those of the DeVries and Romero families, imagined future tears owing to similar tragedies, and longed for the passage of meaningful and effective anti-drunk driving legislation.

Bill and Renee Runyon
Northglenn

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