News

Remembering Sonja

There's nothing that can bring back Sonja DeVries. But the Colorado Republicans just added insult to fatal injury when it sent out a release using the case of Sonja DeVires (sic) — killed by a drunk driver on July 18, 2004, when she was just nineteen— to bash Bill Ritter.

In "Collision Course," originally published in the September 9, 2004 issue of Westword, David Holthouse detailed how Ramon Romero, then an employee of Channel 4, crashed into Sonja's car at Holly and Alameda; she died soon after. "Despite his eight DUI arrests and six alcohol-related driving convictions," Holthouse wrote, "the state had never permanently stripped Romero of his privilege to own and operate a motor vehicle, let alone a two-ton truck. Every time Romero got busted for a DUI, he pleaded it down and got off easy."

The state's lax laws, not the Denver DA's office, prompted this quote from Sonja's mother: "This man was a danger to society. What did he have to do, stand in front of police headquarters and wave a sign that said 'Stop me before I kill someone?'"

In fact, since Sonja's death, her parents have lobbied the legislature to change Colorado's drunk-driving laws. But that didn't stop the Colorado Republicans from erroneously tying the quote to Ritter — who'd actually charged Romero with vehicular homicide.

"That's outrageous," Holthouse says of the Colorado Republicans' release. "It's way out of context." There was no plea deal in this case; Romero was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to the maximum time in prison for vehicular homicide, 24 years.

For a more complete picture of Sonja, go here, to the website devoted to her memory -- and her parents' campaign to change Colorado laws. -- Patricia Calhoun

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun