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She did so without her children. DePinto says she made the difficult decision to leave her kids with her parents, who'd moved to Montana from North Dakota, where she was raised, so that they could have a settled life while she focused on her work and getting through probation. She was becoming a well-known personality on the Colorado cannabis scene through her activism and radio work with John Doe Radio and SexPot.

But at a court hearing in early 2012, Kush was told she would have to serve out her probation in Montana. Since she'd found a new love and life in Colorado, that wasn't going to work for Kush — or her fans. The cannabis community rallied around her, signing a petition asking the court to let Kush come back to Colorado. Garrett wrote the judge that Kush had a job waiting for her at his head shop.

Their efforts were rewarded. Kush was allowed to return to Colorado to finish out her probation.

This past March, she thanked her thousands of Facebook friends for their efforts on her behalf: "One year ago today on my birthday I sat in Montana not knowing if I would be able to return to Colorado or not, you all banned together, from all over the world, and signed the petition that brought me back home where I belong. For this I am forever grateful. I do not consider you my friends, I consider you my FAMILY, my brothers and sisters in this battle we call life. Each of us struggling in our own ways, each of us more than willing to put aside our battle for another time in order to lend a hand to those in much greater need than ourselves. You all mean the world to me, each and everyone of you in your own way."

*********

The story of what happened after they pulled onto I-25 early on September 1 comes out in fragments from DePinto between heartbroken sobs. What stands out most are flashes of darkness and light.

He remembers that something felt weird as he reached the top of the on-ramp from 20th Street to the HOV lane. Aside from some red taillights ahead of him, the night was black. Black. He looked down to check his speed. Looked up. Red taillights. Looked down again. Looked up. Headlights.

"Wait a minute," he recalls thinking. "What the fuck?" The headlights coming his way didn't really register; they didn't make sense. "And then everything got blurry, and I remember yelling, 'Oh, God, Jenny!'"

DePinto swerved his 2006 Jetta to the left, just as Maez jerked her wheel to the right. The two cars collided at high speed. The impact shot the Jetta through the twenty-foot emergency-vehicle access opening in the HOV lane and out onto the oncoming lanes of southbound traffic.

Finally the car stopped sliding. DePinto never lost consciousness, but his memories are fragmented. Stuff from his trunk was suddenly next to the driver's door. His lungs burned from the airbag that had burst into his chest. He'd lost a shoe; he found himself walking with a bare foot on glass. But then smoke from the car snapped him back to reality: He had to get Jenny out of the car. He stepped over the mangled wreck, reached for Jenny, felt her head with his palms. She was moaning, but the light was gone from her still-open eyes.

*********

Rebecca Maez was charged with vehicular assault and homicide while driving under the influence. She's due in court for her pretrial disposition on October 1.

Given her record, the charges aren't a surprise. But no one expects to see a car going the wrong way on an HOV lane. How did Maez get there?

According to Amy Ford, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, there have been three wrong-way crashes, including the one that killed Kush, in the I-25 HOV lane since that stretch was opened in 2008. Neither of the other accidents were alcohol-related or involved impaired drivers, she says, nor did they result in fatalities. Ford says CDOT was never able to determine exactly where the wrong-way drivers entered the freeway, but she notes that the other two accidents occurred about one mile from the 70th Avenue ramp.

That seems impossible, until you head west over the highway on 70th Avenue. Drivers first pass a dedicated on-ramp for when the HOV lane is open for southbound traffic. If the lane is dedicated to northbound traffic, cones are set out and a gate is lowered further down the ramp. Just past that ramp, about 100 feet or so on the left, is the dedicated off-ramp for northbound HOV traffic. The only things preventing drivers from turning that way are a traffic light and a head-high, two-foot-square sign with an arrow turning right with a red cross through it. There are no full-lane barrier arms that drop when the lane has switched from northbound to southbound traffic. There are no warning lights or even signs on the ramp that would tell drivers they've made a wrong turn. In the dark, even a sober driver could be confused. And a drunk one?

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9 comments
patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

we'd like to publish some of the comments about this story in our print edition -- ideally with your full name/town. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

If you read the article, the problem besides the drunk driver. is the way the on/off ramp is set up and despite other deaths CDOT (co. dept of transp.) has done NOTHING. You see here in Colorado, one death is a blip.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

The govt doesn't care except to get its grubby hands and any and all money

opusthepoet
opusthepoet

I never met Jenny, but I know others who were victims of drunk drivers and have been a victim of a presumed drunk driver myself. So can I say I have a passionate doubleplus unlove for drunk drivers? Seriously I think that drunk drivers should get one chance to get their $&*% together and drive responsibly, second offense is mandatory loss of the motor vehicle, with the vehicle recycled in front of the driver if someone was injured, or recycled with the driver behind the wheel if someone was killed.


And that is how doubleplus unlove I am for drunk drivers.

COmidnightrider
COmidnightrider

RIP JENNY KUSH

Good Article(a rarity in Westword) William Breathes

As I rode the HOV Lane with Thoughts of the accident in mind, it was easily apparent that the Culprit, Besides "The unamed Drunk", turned from 70th. If CDOT refuses to make changes to their existing offering, They SHOULD AT VERY LEAST put up a 'Flip Sign' that would alert drivers as they are entering the WRONG WAY. I DO NOT Think this is too much to ask CDOT to do in light of Three serious accidents. Jeremy is an Amazing Spirit, and I wish him Much ONE LOVE healing energy.

Bret Egan
Bret Egan

Besides being a victim of a drunk driver, government also failed Jenny Kush,

rockiesfever
rockiesfever

I just want to say thank you to the Westword for making this a cover story. I didnt know this girl, but the story has haunted me since i first read it. (see my comment on that first Westword coverage story) I can tell by her pictures, and what friends have said about her that she was a life loving person who deserved to live. I dont smoke weed. nor do I drink,  But I do agree it is unbelievable alcohol is legal and weed is not. And when I read yet another story of some selfish, stupid fucking  drunk stealing time in this earth from another innocent person cause they decided to selfishly drive after glutinously stuffing themselves of booze, It makes me want to go to a bar just to beat some drunk fucks ass.  I hope this chick responsible gets life. But she probably wont. She will probably be out of jail inside of the next ten years. Meanwhile, theres a drug dealer somewhere in the us being sentenced to 25 years. This bitch will be taking shots again decades before the drug dealer gets out......

RIP Young Lady. Jenny. Your cause is served as well by your death as your life and hopefully, maybe that will make it make some sense

ThinkFastTalkSlow
ThinkFastTalkSlow

Billy Breathes....this is beautifully written, and an amazing tribute. You captured her achievements as both an activist AND a person. That's what everyone loved about Jenny: she was the most genuine person you ever met.

In a community where we are always fighting for something: a cause, a law, a business, an ego.....Jenny was a beacon of positivity and she shared that light with everyone.

My favorite quote from the piece was from Jeremy, "She always said that if everyone would care about everybody else, you wouldn't have to worry about yourself, because someone would automatically be caring for you."

That's Jenny. And somewhere out there she is smiling. 

 Thank you. 

 
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