RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Their sons were killed, allegedly by a speeding, unlicensed driver who was never tested for drugs or alcohol.
On Thursday two grief-stricken Long Island families were fighting for changes in the legal system.
“It rips me to shreds. We can’t sit with our sons in this courtroom because he took them,” Margaret Massina told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Stephen Massina and Eugene Franjola were best friends, and now in their grief two moms, supported by their families and communities of Oakdale and Sayville, are fighting for justice.
“I lost my baby. I’ll never be able to see him get married, have children. He never graduated high school. I want to change laws so no mother ever has to feel my pain, ever,” Barbara Franjola said.
The moms battled for upgraded charges against suspect David Heise — from driving without a license to criminally negligent homicide.
When the mothers learned the attorney for the suspect may have been on the verge of striking a deal for just 12 months in jail, the protests got louder, including from the teens’ Connetquot High School.
And in a new use of social media, more than 1,700 signatures were gathered in an on-line petition.
When asked if she felt like the petition helped sway the judge, Dina Phillips, a neighbor of the victims, said, “I hope so. He gets to hear what the community is saying.”
The judge was apparently listening and on Thursday ruled he will accept only the maximum if Heise pleads guilty — one and a third to four years in jail.
But the moms and their supporters said victory is bittersweet. Suspect Heise, who allegedly sped through a red light and fatally hit the boys, was never tested for drugs or alcohol that night, even though he had been arrested before the crash for drug possession. The moms said they want automatic testing.
“If there is a fatality at a scene, blood should be drawn,” Franjola said.
The victims’ mothers will continue their battles in court. They will be in court with the suspect on May 10.
Heise also faces unrelated drug dealing and heroin possession charges.
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