Smiling photos, lasting memories: they are what Don and Ann Marie Laduzenski hold on to these days.
“We still are in disbelief that he is not going to ever come home,” Ann Marie said about her son- 29 year old David Laduzenski.
David was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver over a year and a half ago in West Springfield while walking through his friends’ front yard to his car. Daniel Leary of Southwick was charged with operating under the influence resuling in homicide as well as cocaine possession. An engineer, David was home from Boston to be fitted for a wedding tux.
“We all think these things, these tragedies, be it a car accident, what happened to David is going happen to somebody else,” David’s dad Don Laduzenski said. “But it can happen to you, just like that and it happened to us.”
And that’s why the Laduzenski’s are fighting to strengthen drunk driving laws.
They worked with local legislators to file a bill that would increase the minium penalty for OUI Homicide from 2.5 to five years. They testified on Beacon Hill.
“You can embezzle penion funds and get 5 years. But you can kill someone by drunk driving and only get 2.5 years- a possibility of 2.5 years,” Ann Marie Laduzenski said. “I can’t believe that my son’s life was not worth more than 2.5 years.”
State Senator Jim Welch says the bill stalled this summer before the legislative session ended.
“We made some, obviously some strong in roads and dealt with members of the committee and the chairs of commitee to make the case that the penalties are just far too lax in these types of situations,” Welch said.
He went to note that convincing the state’s judiciary committee to toughen minimuman mandatory sentences can be tough, but he plans to push the bill next session. In the meantime, the Laduzenski’s have a message for those who drink and drive.
“It’s just not worth the buzz,” Don said.
“A vehicle can be a weapon just like a knife is a weapon and a gun is a weapon. You hold the keys and you steer the car,” Ann Marie said.
Leary is set to appear in court again in November for a pre-trial hearing. The Laduzenski’s plan to continue working with other drunk driving victims’ families throughout western Massachusetts, in hopes of strengthening their case.