Vanek Family Continues To Seek Justice
A snowy January day in 2015 changed the lives of the Vanek Family forever. Macy Kujava and her daughter Sophia were hit head-on by driver Vaughn Gentry, who was driving with a suspended license.
“Macy is in a nursing home here in Brainerd and has a traumatic brain injury, who recently was having seizures and had to get on more medication for that, so this is a lifelong process and that’s where she is,” said Rhonda Anderson, Macy’s aunt. “There hasn’t been a lot of improvements; you never know what might happen, but this looks like where she will be.”
The family continues to fight and has been working closely with Rep. Josh Heintzeman to increase punishment of this offense.
“Looking at how the penalty is decided, and in this case where you have an individual driving without a drivers license either due to suspension or revocation, in a lot of folks’ opinion and my own, the penalty is too low, it’s a misdemeanor,” said Rep. Heintzeman.
During his one year supervised probation, Gentry was ordered to complete 240 hours of community service. At the one-year mark, the hours were not complete and he was given an additional year of probation.
“It’s something honestly that absolutely devastates my clients routinely, not only this county but other counties, it’s what happens,” said Vanek family attorney Steven D. Lastovich.
Gentry stated that his multiple injuries contributed to him only completing 43 of the ordered 240 hours of community service. Vaughn Gentry will serve 30 days in jail starting Oct. 25, giving him that time to detox from all of his pain medication.
“This portion of it is over for us, we would have loved to see 60 days; the judge gave his ruling as to why that wasn’t going to happen, so he will be there for 30,” said Anderson.
An outcome that the family hopes will change in the future thanks to Macy’s bill.
“We are talking about human life here that has been affected tragically, and we have to do something to help people understand that driving without a driver’s license is not okay,” said Rep. Heintzeman.
Macy’s Bill has moved successfully through the House twice, but there are still some challenges in the Senate in order to push forward.
“It would be easier for Sue Vanek and the family to walk away from this, but they feel that they owe it to both the granddaughter and the daughter Macy, who is in a nursing home, to see this through,” said Lastovich.
The family is happy to report granddaughter Sophia has recovered well from her many surgeries and is living as a normal 7-year-old girl.
“These kinds of really sad stories, unfortunately, fuel that conversation around how are we responding to this issue,” said Rep. Heintzeman.