Town Without Pretty

Letters to the Editor

Code read: Westword used to be the newspaper for those of us who didn't necessarily take on the values of mainstream society -- who have chosen to live life "in the slower lane." Then I see Kenny Be's September 9 Worst-Case Scenario, "Erie, But True," depicting Old Town Erie as something less than a slum. Of all people, I would think the folks at Westword would appreciate the value of a place like Old Town. We have no HOA and no covenants except one: Live and let live. Our concern is not blind allegiance to the god of property values, but recognition that there is value in a community that has diverse economic and social components. We have no emphasis on code enforcement here because we don't want it! I'm thankful that there are still some places where bureaucracy is not dictating how I have to live. The result of this freedom is that Old Town is a nice place to live. Most residents here do take pride in their property. We take pride in knowing and helping our neighbors.

Is Westword contending that the folks who live in the multimillion-dollar houses at the Parade of Homes are better than those of us who live more modestly in Old Town? If you are, then you're not the newspaper I remember!

Ruth Schrichte

Crash Course

An extraordinary life: I would like to thank you for David Holthouse's outstanding article "License to Kill," in the September 9 issue. Sonja DeVries was just as he portrayed her; she truly touched everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. Sonja was unique in all the ways that he so kindly described, but it was her presence that was magnificent. She was pure joy on two feet -- an unforgettable person, unlike anyone. She would have liked David Holthouse -- his sensitivity, his kindness and his talent -- and she would have blessed him with one of her larger-than-life smiles.

Thank you for bringing Sonja to your readers and for bringing awareness to the terrible circumstances that led to her death. I am praying that people are moved to action.

Victoria Copeland
Alamogordo, New Mexico

Sonja's story lives on: I very rarely write responses to stories I read in the paper, but David Holthouse's article on Sonja DeVries has inspired me to -- I just read the last words twenty seconds ago! His writing so much detail about her life -- her accomplishments, goals, loves, talents -- was very inspiring to me. I noticed she and I had a great many things in common. I even came very close to losing my own life in a DUI accident, as a passenger, at the age of sixteen, in 1986. What a hard way to learn a lesson. It's truly horrible that Ramon Romero didn't learn his lesson the first time he was cited for DUI.

If you are in contact with her parents, I wonder if you could give them my...well, I don't know exactly what. I'm sure they're tired of people calling and offering condolences. I just cried at reading how they don't want revenge, but just for that despicable Romero to do his time and pay restitution, but not suffer indefinitely. Theirs is a kindness that very few possess, and I admire them, and their daughter, for showing it. Sonja's story is one that will live on, even in the minds of those who didn't know her, thanks to David's writing on her. My deepest appreciation for sharing her life with us all.

Diana Hailey
via the Internet

The town crier: Another good one by David Holthouse. Opening the rag, I thought, "How boring will this shit be?" But again I was wrong; he has a nice way of making me feel sorry for people I don't really give a shit about, like Sonja DeVries. Bummer that she died.

My one problem was this incident: "While Pacheco conferred with a court clerk, Romero retreated to a rear corner of the courtroom. When a reporter approached, he said, 'No, no, I can't talk to you.' The reporter pushed a photo of Sonja DeVries into Romero's line of sight. He recoiled and began to cry."

I am assuming this "reporter" was Holthouse. Am I wrong? Kind of a shitty thing to do, in my eyes, but some reporters forget they are reporting and not making the news happen by forcing emotional responses from people. Sure, he is wrong for getting drunk and killing Sonja. But he is a victim, too -- a victim of his own stupid life. Why was he run off from Channel 4? I don't understand that.

I was a reporter in Louisiana for a while, and this is the kind of crap that made me quit the business. Everyone got hurt in the incident. DeVries died, her family wept, Romero lost his job, and he's publicly smeared and will reside in jail because he is irresponsible. The worst part? Someone gets to blab it all over town in the paper. Being the town crier is not art. You dig me? Journalism is karmically devastating.

Tim Beacham
via the Internet

More than a statistic: I just finished reading the wonderful article about Sonja DeVries. I have been friends with her parents for a long time. I have known Van since 1997, when my daughter started school at Belleview. We have gotten to be friends through the years, and both he and Carolyn are such kind, good people.

I also am an attorney, but I only do family law. I was astounded to learn that Colorado is one of two states that does not have a habitual-DUI law. I have e-mailed state senator Ken Gordon and MADD about this, and I will also contact Congresswoman Diana DeGette's office. This entire ordeal has just been horrible, and David Holthouse's article is a real tribute to Sonja. Now a lot more people will see her as more than just a statistic.

Marcy Rothenberg-Romer
Greenwood Village

A rotten apple: This killer had nine bites of the apple. No more plea bargains: Twenty-four years to life. He's sorry after the fact. Show no mercy to this guy.

William M. Dikant
Castleton, New York

Read it and weep: I want to thank you for putting David Holthouse's "License to Kill" into the universe. I am currently attending court-ordered alcohol classes and was deeply touched when one of our class members read this article aloud. I drive 45 minutes every Monday night to be in the presence of these wonderful souls. It is a very positive group of people with a serious mission to never reoffend ever again.

On my way home down the highway, I had an epiphany. I still was in tears over the story and thought what a great idea it would be to make sure that every first, second, third, etc. DUI offender who walks out of the courthouse be handed a pamphlet containing this article. Put a little reality in their hands just as they are trying to think about how they are going to reduce their sentences. I hope this is the beginning of something very huge.

Thank you, thank you, thank you again. Be a Sonja, not a Ramon.

Tom Perkins
Palmer Lake

Poor placement: I enjoy reading Westword weekly and have done so for quite some time. I just finished reading "License to Kill," though, and found it very distasteful that on two consecutive facing pages, you ran ads for DUI lawyers. I understand that advertising is what provides Westword to us all free of charge, but maybe whoever does your layouts should consider putting ads for lawyers defending DUI offenders at least a few pages away from an article about someone killed by a drunk driver -- instead of between pages of the article. I feel that very poor judgment was used in the placement of those ads.

Michael Keach

There auto be a law: First of all, let me compliment you and congratulate you on the exemplary journalism and courage involved in publishing "License to Kill." The writing was smooth and articulate, the details accurate and the story heart-wrenching. I was weeping by the end of the piece. I have been working in emergency medicine for eleven years, taking into account both my military and civilian careers as an EMT. Point being, I do not shed tears frivolously. My compliments to the author, David Holthouse, on his exceptional skill as a journalist and as a writer.

One of the underlying themes of the piece was how the Colorado justice system failed at protecting Sonja DeVries from the eight-times-convicted drunk driver who always managed to eel his way through loopholes and plea bargains and find himself yet again behind the wheel 1) stinking drunk, and 2) with a valid driver's license in hand. And the impression that something needs to change to ensure that this doesn't happen again was palpable. I couldn't agree more!

So imagine my shock, dismay and revulsion when, upon reaching the end of the article, looking into the faces of Sonja's parents and her murderer, I glance over to the facing page and see, in lurid green ink, an ad for legal defense options for: "DUI, Vehicular assault/Homicide, Domestic Violence, Traffic, Drugs, Assault/Battery," etc., etc. I know the realities of this world; money is required for everything, including birth and death. I also realize that you guys have to get the money to print the paper and pay your employees, just like everybody else. But I've got to ask: Did you have to run that ad in an issue with a cover article about drunk driving?

Yes, freedom of speech, and so on and so forth, but when will it begin to be different? When will we stop accepting the status quo? More important, is Westword just out to make money, hypocrisy be damned, or is there any journalistic integrity and genuine interest in making a difference for the public whom you claim to serve? Any thoughts beyond the patronizing answer of "We don't work without money" (this, by the way, would make you mercenaries, not journalists) would be welcome.

Adrian A. Villarreal

Editor's note: Westword's advertising department does not know what stories are appearing in an issue until that issue is off the press; the editorial department does not know what ads are running in an issue until an issue is off the press. This separation is important to maintaining editorial integrity, but it also led to the unfortunate juxtaposition of ads and editorial in last week's edition, caught only after the papers were off the press. Our apologies to the DeVries family.

Walk This Way

Ticket to stride: Thank you for the September 9 Off Limits item on Moonwalk for Earth. It is rewarding to know that people like Ramsey Brookhart and Adam Hall have used their smarts to spread awareness on the importance of renewable energy sources. You don't hear of many people their age investing their time and talents on such environmental issues, especially founding an organization to help raise awareness worldwide. Though it may seem like a joke to moonwalk distances to prove a point, it is an ingenious idea and deserves support and attention. May Moonwalk for Earth continue to spread the good word.

Kara Salazar


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