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Lesson: DUI crash can destroy your life
Funeral E-15 Chris casket DSC_7343.jpg
Chris Stevens makes a point about the consequences of drinking and driving as he stands next to a casket. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Ripon High juniors and seniors received sober talk how drinking and driving could lead to a second degree murder conviction while destroying their future.

It was part of a mock funeral presentation Friday morning in the Ripon High gym following Thursday’s mock DUI crash involving Ripon High students that was part of the annual Every 15 Minutes presentation.

Retired Sheriff’s Lieutenant Chris Stevens and prosecuting attorney Monte Bonnet made it clear even an 18-year-old responsible for someone’s death while drinking and driving would spend years in prison and be on parole for the rest of their lives when released after 15 to 20 years following a 15 year to life sentence. 

Stevens said it was obvious some of the boys in the stands were not taking him seriously and just profiling him as an old cop waving his hands at the students as he was talking.  It is a lot more than that, he stressed. At the age of 5 he saw his dad killed in a head-on crash with a drunk driver. He then saw his young brother killed in a DUI crash when he was 9 years old. He also had an uncle who was killed at the same location in Arizona where his dad lost his life – also by a drunk driver.

Stevens told the student to look at their best friend sitting next to them in the stands.  

“Tell them you love them,” he said.  “Now tell them you love them enough to take their keys away from them to keep them from driving drunk.”

The Ripon High School E-15 program listed one teacher and 28 students who had their lives cut short by drunk drivers.  They included: RHS English teacher Mr. Musseman, 48, Aubree Pelon, Bailey Gillihan, Brandon Rainer, Chloe Kiser, Chris Speed, Christian McCarty, Craig Valdez, Dylan Crosby, Grace Lewis, Jeanette Baliel, Jesse Olaiz, Josh Atilano, Justin Bright, Justin Swilley, Malia Taylor Chavez, Manuel Ponce, Natalie Betoshana, Nicole Brown, Sabrina Stearns, Sam Brown, Shaista Afzal, Shannon Johnson, Skyler Kahan, Thomas Mulder, Terry Brogan, Yajaira Quintero and Yuvia Gutierrez.

Students’ dreams for their future included becoming a forensic pathologist and wanting to move to New York after college where she hoped to direct and choreograph musicals. Senior Craig Valdez had plans to attend college in Santa Barbara hoping for a degree in biochemistry and work in research biology, he said as he read a letter he had written to his parents, thanking his dad for working so hard to support the family and to his mom for being an amazing woman. 

A brief biography of each person who had succumbed to a drunk driver was printed in the program indicating where they hoped to attend college and what vocations that aspired to achieve in life. 

As part of the program the students had to be away from their home and their parents overnight and couldn’t see them until after the crash scene and the funeral over a two-day period.  Parents and students alike were asked to write letters to each other saying things they would liked to have said before the mock crash on the high school campus on Thursday. 

Two moms stepped up to the microphone and gave emotional presentations to losing their daughters, Ann Pendleton and Kelly Kiser.

Both with tears from the chance it could have been true, Pendleton said, “My heart is broken and I don’t think I will ever be able to bring it back together.  It’s hard enough being a teacher mom without losing your daughter as you look back on all life’s experiences and remembering her as a happy child even as a newborn.”

Kiser recalled when her daughter Chloe rushed out the front door to go to school.

“I didn’t realize it would be the last time I would see her,” she said wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.  “Your graduation was just around the corner.  I love you in my entire core.  Chloe you always laughed so hard.  I will no longer have as much as a much as a glass of wine and drive again.”

California Highway Patrol Officer Maurice Hughes and Ripon High activities director Jill Mortensen were in charge of the event. 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email