|March 30, 2006
Michael woke up a few times last night, so he has been tired today. He had OT this afternoon and Brooke took him to the park afterwards. He is doing a lot
of mouth movements these days.
Court Day was interesting and hard to follow. Mike Tabor with the State Attorney's office had his ducks in a row and presented a very good case. He cited
statutes and cases to support his arguments. Glenn Swiatek looked befuddled and did not say too much.
Judge Brace postponed the hearing due to Glenn Swiatek filing his motion improperly. Judge brace commented, "I had intended to hear this motion today.
The inartfulness of your pleading has not allowed me to do that, Mr. Swiatek". Judge Brace was not a happy camper.
Mr. Swiatek will appeal what he feels is an illegal sentence. Another day in court, I guess.
The Mother of the teen that brought the vodka was in court, sitting on the opposite side of us. Not sure why she was there, you would think that she has
had enough of the inside of courtrooms, but I guess not. I personally would thank God that my son just received probation and spend my time with him.
Mr. Rice at the Northwest Florida Daily News lived up to his promise and printed a retraction on page A2.
Debi, our thoughts and prayers are with you
March 23, 2006
Michael slept well through the night. When he is sitting in his chair, I sometimes get real close to him and say "Dad" a few times in one ear, then switch
over to his other ear and do the same thing. After a few seconds of bothering him like this, he smiles and then starts making noise. He is trying to say
something. I'm sure he wants to tell me to leave him alone. If he tells me to stop, then I will.
When I visited him at school, he had just finished vomiting. It happens sometimes and as long as he is sitting up, it is not a big deal. Nurse Heather was
taking good care of him, so I was not panicking. She has a very soothing way about her. We are fortunate to have two Nurse Heathers in our lives; one at
school and one at Nemours Clinic. Brooke took him to PT/OT after school, then off to the park they went.
When I started this site, I said that nobody walks away from what they did on the beach on June 7, 2005; nobody has. Three people were arrested,
convicted, and sentenced. This would have never happened if we didn't push as hard as we did. They now have criminal records and their families have
been put through hell due to their actions. No matter what the sentence, it would not have been as severe as what Michael received. We are fighting as
hard as we can for Michael and have put our trust in the judicial system. Judge Heflin has many years on the bench and we have to hope that his decision
is the right one. I will not trash him for doing what he feels his right, I am not Robert Lee.
These people need to accept what they did, serve their time, and thank God that they are able to continue with their lives. I hope that whenever they go near
the beach, they will think of that little 14 year old boy floating face down. I hope that when they have children of their own, they will think about what they did
and hold them a little tighter. I won't tell you how much I hurt or how my life lost meaning; it doesn't matter. My concern is for my son and I will die of a
broken heart for him. One child died that day, that is one too many. Nobody wins.
Thank you so much for your support, it keeps us going.
March 22, 2006
I suppose a lot of you already know what happened today. The young man who supplied the vodka for the beach party received 6 months probation. No
incarceration time. Needless to say, we were shocked. This was the same judge who sentenced the first juvenile offender to 6 – 9 months detention. I
suppose that “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” is worse than “providing alcohol to a person under 21 years of age”. A legal lesson learned
today, one that I wish we had never had to learn.
I read a statement in court today, prior to the judge passing sentence. Here it is. Only the name has been omitted (to protect the guilty).
Most of what I have to say has already been covered in my written correspondence to this court. You have seen my child for yourself, here in this
courtroom in his wheelchair, you have seen the lifelessness in his eyes, and probably in ours as well. Please know that our pleading for the maximum
sentence allowed for everyone that was involved in this incident is not merely revenge, but to keep this from happening to another child, and to another
As far as my personal feelings go about the defendant, I do feel the need to express them.
The defendant came to the pediatric ICU the very night that my son Michael died and was brought back to life. I did not know who he was; I didn’t know he
was there to watch us. He watched us all fall apart, he watched us die by the second, and he said not one word to us.
During the very long, involved process of the truth finally coming out - of all the people that were arrested in this event, the defendant was the only one that I
initially felt any compassion at all for. I had heard from my stepson that he felt like this was all his fault, that he was devastated. It was at this point that I
questioned my feelings, and prayed every day to God Almighty, not just for Michael to recover, but to help me find forgiveness for the teenagers that were
involved, simply because they are teenagers. I prayed for forgiveness for their actions that took my child as I knew him away from me. I also tried to put
myself in his mother’s place, how I would feel if the shoe were on the other foot, if it were her child in a diaper and a wheelchair with brain damage, no
quality of life left, and it was my child that had supplied the vodka that led to this. After considering these things, I did begin to feel the smallest bit of
compassion. I have raised 2 teenage boys, and I know how bad their judgment can be. Look behind me at my baby boy and you can see the perfect
example of bad judgment. Michael tried so hard to impress all of them; they were all older, they were all in high school and he was not yet; therefore they
were all heroes in his book.
I want this court to know that I tried with all my might to hold on to this compassion, but the defendant’s continued behavior is what stopped me cold. To
this day, he has not admitted any part in this. Nor have his parents, who encouraged him to continue to not tell the truth, resulting in 9 long months of
additional suffering. My stepson is now in a Level 6 detention facility for his part in this crime, and will be released next month. In my family, we teach our
kids that they are accountable for their actions, we do not hide them behind a “not guilty” plea. My son Michael is as guilty as the rest of those involved,
and he has certainly been sentenced to life imprisonment. We, his family, have been sentenced right along with him. I do not understand what gives the
defendant the right, out of all of the people who were arrested, the one who brought the stolen vodka, to claim that he is Not Guilty. Not only will he have to
live the rest of his life with the knowledge that his actions led to Michael’s condition; but if it is the decision of this court that he is not to receive any
punishment, he will also have to live the rest of his life knowing that not once, not one single time, during the course of events beginning on June 7th, did he
stand up and do the right thing, he never told the truth. I’m sure that if he is in fact sentenced to “supervision”, that all he will feel is relief that he got away
with this because of his age. Had he stepped up and done the right thing, had he told the truth from the beginning, our feelings about his punishment would
be so much different right now.
I know that all of the defendant’s friends and family that are here today feel that Michael made his choice on that day just as the defendant made his, but
there is a huge difference here. Michael was nearly 3 years younger than this young man, he was not even in high school yet. He just wanted to be like the
older kids. And what the older kids do is DRINK. This has to stop somewhere, sometime, and I hope TODAY is the beginning of the end.
I pray that the decision in this courtroom today is just, that Michael’s entire family and friends may find some kind of peace after this day.
The defendant’s attorney implored the judge not to “ruin this young man’s life”. Excuse me? The maximum incarceration time for a second degree
misdemeanor is merely 60 days in a Level 4 detention center. I fail to see how this could ruin his life. Teach him a hard lesson maybe, which he definitely
needs to learn, but “ruin his life”? Again, look at my son and tell me which young man’s life has been ruined.
While we spoke outside the courtroom with one of the states attorneys, my mother (you all know her as Maw Maw, and she is quite simply the best Maw
Maw in the entire world) felt compelled to go speak to the defendant, who was busy celebrating his good fortune with his family, friends, and the infamous
Robert Lee. My mother looked at R. and told him that she hoped he realized what a lucky young man he was, and hoped that he would never, EVER take
another drink until he was of legal drinking age. A woman who Mom assumed was his grandmother said “or never a drink at all”. Mom replied that would
be nice also, but at the very least, not until he was of legal drinking age.
The defendant did not have a chance to respond to this, because the person we believe to be Robert Lee came over, put his arm around him, and whisked
The defendant’s mother told my Mom: Please know that we pray every day for Michael, and for Dave and Brenda. And we are so sorry this happened. My
Mom responded with: Then why haven’t you told them? She had no answer for this. She just repeated what she had said. Mom very calmly said, Then you
should tell them. Then she walked away.
Needless to say, nobody came over and told us how sorry they were. They just continued their celebration. When we left, they were all smiles, the
defendant himself smiling and speaking excitedly into his cell phone. It made my blood run cold.
I will end this post with my thoughts on Robert Lee:
Robert Lee initially attacked Dave on this website (What's the responsibility of the alcohol manufacturers for your son's circumstances? What about
yours? Did you spend as much time with your son before he was injured?) The answer to THAT question, by the way is “more than most fathers spend
with their sons.” He then did an about-face after being banned from posting on this site and offered Dave legal help via email: “I'll be glad to meet with you
and go to see a state attorney to present your point of view…” and money “if all of the expenses of taking care of your family and son are overwhelming
you, I offer you $1000 also to use for travel to the hospital; to get something insurance won't pay for - your choice.” Dave politely refused, as we do not
know this man. This put him in another snit, so after my stepson was sentenced, he posted this on the message board: “As for a Judge Heflin's sentence,
it is gutless catering to the mob and politics; intentionally ignoring a far more informed decision from the juvenile authorities.” I assume since Judge Heflin
handed down a sentence today that he considered favorable, he will do yet another about-face and sing his praises. Please note, we also believe that he
wrote one of the letters to the Judge Brace that the Adult Bartender’s mother signed her name to. We believe this because it sounded nothing like the
Bartenders’ mother’s previous writings, it sounded like Robert Lee’s. Additionally, Robert Lee’s name and fax number were imprinted at the top of the
letter. Sloppy work, Robert.
Note to the mothers of two of the Defendants: Good luck letting this loose cannon into your life. He has yet to pick a side and stick with it. I certainly
wouldn’t want him putting his arm around one of my kids.
For all the rest of you who help us get through the days, just by your caring and loving emotional support….thank you.
March 19, 2006
Michael woke up several times throughout the night. He smiled when I walked into his room to check on him. He probably didn't smile because of me, but
if I want to fool myself, that's ok; whatever it takes to get through this. The little things, remember?
He was very tired today and has been sleeping since 5:30 this evening. It must have been a rough day at school. He was being tube-fed when I visited him
at lunch and seemed very uncomfortable in his wheelchair.
It is getting almost impossible to pick Michael up these days. His entire body will stiffen and it feels that he weighs much more than he actually does.
Maneuvering him through doorways is extremely difficult. It is time for some home modifications, or back surgery.
Remember when our buddy Rob posted this on the message board?:
By The Associated Press
COVINGTON -- A 15-year-old boy, who died after his mother found him unconscious in bed Saturday, suffered alcohol poisoning from drinking bourbon with
a friend during a sleepover, authorities said. Ivan Brewster, a ninth-grader, had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.30 percent, roughly three times above the
legal limit for driving, according to an autopsy.
This is roughly the blood-alcohol level that Michael had. The big question is , Did Michael die due to alcohol poisoning or did he die because he was
furnished enough alcohol that he passed out in the Gulf and drowned? Guess we should look into this. Rob seemed to be concerned about underage
drinking, now he is defending the people that provided the alcohol. Someone is confused.
I found this article and wanted to share it with you.
Harsh Punishment for Teen Drinking Party
If you own or rent a home where a party with alcohol takes place for underage drinkers, you had better hope you don't have to stand before Lancaster
County Court Judge Gale Pokorny of Lincoln, Neb. Last Oct. 2, college students Mike Ternus and Ken Jensen hosted just such a party and were busted
when the cops showed up after complaints that the music was too loud. Not on hand at the time was Mike Herchenbach, 21, whose name is also on the
lease. That was enough to get him arrested, too, and now he's paying a very big price. Instead of paying a fine and spending a weekend at most in jail,
Herchenbach is cooling his heels behind bars for a full month.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Judge Pokorny gave Herchenbach, a business student at Southeast Community College, 30 days in the Lancaster
Correctional Facility. Also in jail with him are people who were found guilty of drunk driving, but they're only serving seven to 10 days in jail. "I think Pokorny
wanted to make an example of someone, and I just happened to be in the courtroom on the wrong day I think, which sucks," Herchenbach told Journal
Star reporter Lori Pilger.
Tough judge Pokorny issued a three-page sentencing order that listed the reasons, one by one, why courts need to take a harder look at these types of
cases for the simple reason that young people can--and do--die at these types of parties. The judge said that when college students are given unlimited
access to alcohol, they often drink so much at one time that they pass out with near-lethal blood alcohol levels. In addition, he noted that party crashers
looking for free booze and food cruise neighborhoods and can get violent when asked to leave. Pokorny said such parties destroy the sense of community
and are an expensive drain on police resources.
Herchenbach, who gets out of jail on Saturday, told the Journal Star that doesn't plan on having any more parties. So maybe the tough sentence worked?
March 18, 2006
I am writing today's update while sitting next to Michael. I have to type with one hand while warding off his kicks with the other hand. He gets active
sometimes and this is one of those times. He may not be able to stand up or walk, but his legs are still strong. He has been smiling a lot today and voicing
some. I have been trying very hard to get him to say something today, but he hasn't yet. Back to school for him tomorrow. Maybe Lauren will get him
I have Michael's Florida Identification Card in my wallet next to his medical alert card for his baclofen pump. My heart breaks when I see the picture on his
ID card. He is slumped over in his wheelchair and there is nothing in his eyes. He will be 15 years old in a week. He should be getting his Driver Learner's
Permit, but that was taken away from him along with every thing else that day on the beach.
Wednesday is sentencing day for the teen that provided the vodka. I will be glad when all of this is over. It has been going on way too long and it has taken
it's toll on all of us. If I ever finish building that time machine, I will go back in time and prevent the events of June 7, 2005 from happening. Does anyone
have a flux capacitor?
Sue, I think it's just a bunch of idiots spamming message boards, but I will check into it.
Mary W., I don't think she is related to us.
March 17, 2006
Michael slept well through the night. He had OT at school today with Kim. She has been using a vibration technique that makes him smile. I was hoping
she would have him walking by the end of the session, but not this time.
I received a call from Tom McLaughlin, a staff reporter from the Northwest Florida Daily News. He had a few questions for me concerning the sentencing
of the teen that supplied the vodka. I didn't like his style much, but I guess he was just doing his job. The questions that he was asking seemed to fed to him
by someone, ( Mr. Lee?). He said that I had been referred to as a "screaming victim", because of what I had to go through to get the investigation going. I
told him I was Michael's advocate and that I speak for him because he cannot speak for himself. He called Brenda and told her that the parents of the teen
contacted him. Are they nervous about what sentence the judge will hand down? It looks like they are trying for public outcry. What sentence could
possibly be worse than Michael's? Their son can walk, talk and eat, Michael cannot. I would love for Michael to trade places with their son. I would thank
God if all Michael was facing was a few months of incarceration.
I will be watching the "Local" section of the Northwest Florida Daily News to see what is going on.
Michael will not be the last child that will be injured due to underage drinking. As long as lenient sentences are handed down, there will be no deterrent to
prevent it. Even this little website has made a small difference. Here is an email that I received today:
I went on Michael's web site for the first time last night. I was on it forever looking and crying. My heart goes out to you. I am so very sorry. I have a son that
just turned 15 in January and I worry about peer pressure everyday. No matter what you say or do or how good of a kid they are that darn peer pressure
always seems to get in the way. I showed my son briefly this morning a picture of Michael as he ran off to school, but I intend on having him sit with me
tonight and going through the entire site as I did last night. Since I saw the site last night this has stuck with me and been on my heart. I volunteer at a
baseball park for kids and have for 7 years. I have seen these boys grow up. For the last week or so one boy in particular who is 17 has been talking about
Spring Break in Panama City and all the drinking he will do. I kind of let it go when he talked about it thinking awwww there is no way he can get the alcohol,
but after seeing this web site I am ashamed of myself for actually believing this and almost giving up on this sweet boy. Two years ago he had an accident
on the football field and was in a coma and nearly lost his life. He has a second chance and I am gonna do everything I can to make sure he takes that
chance. I will be passing this web site on to him and all his friends. I have several friends that are football coaches and I will be passing this on as well for
them to give to all the kids that they can. Thank you for sharing Michael with me and helping me to wake up and hopefully make a difference here in
Georgia. God Bless.
I had a MRI a couple of months ago that showed something on my brain. The films were sent all over town and even to Montgomery (isn't that where Gene
Miller lives?). I visited a neurosurgeon today to see what the diagnosis was. He said that everybody concurs that it is probably a venous angioma, which
should not cause any problems. However, to make sure it wants to perform another test, a cerebral angiogram. Hopefully, everything will be fine, because
I sure don't want a brain injury.
Thank you for your kindness, Shawn, it is much appreciated.
Another chapter closed in my life today. Hell of a year. It has got to get better.
March 15, 2006
Michael fell asleep early last night, so he woke up in the early morning hours.
We have noticed little changes in Michael over the past month or so. His tongue used to stick out of his mouth and move it around without purpose. He
does not do that anymore. I think this is a good thing. He now opens his mouth and seems to be trying to talk. No words yet, but you never know. He used
to jerk if he was touched without warning, but he no longer does that. Once again, an improvement. He stiffens his entire body when he is about to be
picked up. He is resisting, which any of us would do.
He is not walking or talking yet, but I will take anything that he wants to give at this point.
A friend of mine, Dee Dee, called at 4:45 this morning to let me know that her mother was in the hospital. Her mom suffers from an anoxic injury and had
unrelated surgery yesterday. Dee Dee said that her Mom is on a vent and is not breathing above it. The machine is doing all the work. 10 months ago, I
would not even know what a vent was. I now know that certain meds will effect the pulmonary system and that the body will get lazy as long as a machine
does the work.
I wish Dee Dee and her Mom the best.
March 13, 2006
Not much happens on weekends and this weekend was no exception. Michael did not fall asleep until 1:00 AM on Saturday and woke up early on Sunday.
He stayed up until 10:00 last night and was up at 5:30 this morning. I guess he doesn't require much sleep these days. I guess I don't either. We sat
outside for a while yesterday; the weather was nice. He does not have school today, it is a teacher's workday or something.
I turned 46 on Saturday, and of course, it means nothing. I was supposed to get out on my birthday and enjoy it, but that is impossible. The only thing I care
about is that little guy lying in his room. Keeping him alive and trying to get him better is my life. I may not like some things about my life, but I have no
complaints about being a caregiver. I might get tired sometimes and feel that all is lost, but then he will smile, and I smile with him. That's all it takes, one
little smile. Those of you that are worried about me, don't be. As long as I have Michael with me, I have everything.
The adult that supplied the beer is appealing her case. She evidently does not like jail and feels that she should be released. I'm sure Michael doesn't like
the prison that he is in, but he cannot appeal his sentence.
Sentencing for the teen that provided the vodka is scheduled for March 22nd.
March 9, 2006
Michael slept well through the night. He was a little hard to wake up this morning; typical teenager. The bus picked him up at 7:30 this morning, allowing
me to only be 45 minutes late for work. Nothing much happened at school. When I visited him at lunch, he was very sweaty and seemed uncomfortable in
his chair. He must have been sitting for quite a while. I moved him from his wheelchair to his mat. He cooled down and seemed to relax after a few
minutes. He didn't ask me to take him home, so I went back to work.
He has been in a good mood for the last couple of hours and has been laughing and voicing quite a bit. He is starting to get tired. I hope that he sleeps well
tonight and has many good dreams; he deserves a break from this nightmare.
March 8, 2006
Michael fell asleep early last night, but made up for it by waking up several times during the wee hours of the morning. He was in a good mood this
morning until I put him into his chair. Putting him into a wheelchair puts me into a bad mood, too. He rode the bus again this morning, this gave Kathy and
Cindy the chance to harass me. It was all in good fun and helped me wake up a little.
Not much happened at school today. I did get the chance to talk to Kim, one of the therapists at Silver Sands. She is full of energy and has a lot of ideas for
Michael's rehabilitation. No therapies after school. Michael's doctor recommended that he get more PT and OT. The place that we are using only give us
one day a week. Brooke talked to them today and they agreed that one day a week is a waste of time. It was suggested that we find somewhere that can
give us more therapy. Always something.
He was very active this evening. We had to put him on the floor so that would have room to twist and turn.
March 7, 2006
Michael was restless last night. He went to sleep at about 10:00, but awoke a few times during the night. When I got up to check on him, he was moving
his legs around and vocalizing. At first I thought he was awake and ready to get the day started, but his eyes were closed. I think he was dreaming.
Michael rode the bus to school this morning. It has been a few months since he has been on the bus, I usually take him to school, but I cannot afford to
miss anymore time at work. We were greeted with warm smiles by Cindy, the bus driver and Kathy, the aide.
I visited him at lunch and he was very active. He was moving all over the mat.
Tomorrow's sentencing for the teen that provided the vodka has been postponed for a couple of weeks. We do not know why yet, but we will let you know.
We are finding things like this are the norm in the justice world. We have waited for 9 months, a couple of weeks won't make much difference. Kathy,
Cindy, if you read this, Michael will be on the bus tomorrow.
March 6, 2006
Michael slept well through the night, but he was still tired today. He slept for quite a while at school. He was asleep when I visited him at lunch. He looked
very relaxed and peaceful, so I did not disturb him.
Brooke took him to a park after school then gave him a bath. She checked out a special gym in town that has motorized exercise tables that we might try.
Rehabilitation is all about repetition and these tables should provide that. Hopefully, we will be able to start soon. I haven't said it in a while, but Brooke is
one of a kind and we are extremely fortunate to have her.
He is a little wound up tonight and is trying to roll. He yells, then rolls. He is very determined. Gotta be a good sign.
Thank you to all of you that support Michael; you will never know how much it means to us.
March 5, 2006
Michael woke up a couple of times last night. He decided to give himself speech therapy in the wee hours of the morning. He was yapping about
something; wish I knew what. He was in a good mood for most of the day. He smiled and laughed a lot. I wish he could share the joke with me, I could use
a laugh. We sat outside and listened to music for a while, enjoying the weather.
Wednesday is sentencing day for the teen that supplied the vodka. I'm sure that everybody he has ever known has written a letter in support of him. Great
student, good neighbor, wonderful child; you know the drill. At the last court appearance, where he was ajudicated "GUILTY", he brought a crowd of people
with him. Most of the people were teens that must have taken time off from school to be present. Showing support for your friend is one thing, turning a
court into a circus is something else. I have no doubt we will have a repeat of this on Wednesday. Whatever sentence the judge hands down, this boy is
GUILTY, that will never change. It will be on his record and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life. However, based on the way that hid behind an
attorney and never came forward with the truth, I am sure he will have no problem living with it.
I know that you have seen me mention a person named Gene Miller over the past few days. For those of you that are interested in finding out what this is
about, email me.
March 3, 2006
Today we went to Nemour's Children's Clinic in Pensacola to have Michael's G-tube replaced. Nurse Heather replaced it and made sure that I knew how to
do it. The things I have learned since this all began. He tolerated the ride very well and appeared to be in a good mood. Brooke took him to the park when
we returned home. He seemed to enjoy it . There have been a few smiles and a couple of chuckles from him today. It seems that he has lost some weight,
so we are keeping an eye on that.
Michael went to the neurologist yesterday. He had his baclofen pump refilled and had his arms, legs, fingers and cheeks botoxed. The Botox helps relax
his extremities and it helps his drooling. Of course to fill the baclofen pump and to get the botox into his muscles, hypodermic needles are used. I'm sure
that it was very painful for him. He is a tough kid ; he proved that by coming back from the dead.
I see we have a visitor from Miramar Beach. I hope that it's not Gene Miller; I hope he is with his wife in Montgomery.
March 1, 2006
Today was picture day at school. I asked that Michael not have his picture taken. He was a healthy, normal, kid for 14 years and we always looked
forward to his school pictures, but this year is different. I don't think we'll be buying his yearbook either.
Michael will be going to school during the summer. It is a shortened schedule, which means we will be paying much more for Michael's care. You would be
surprised how much it costs to provide for a special needs child. It won't be long before we will be eligible for all of the government programs including
Friday is our trip to Nemour's Clinic to have Michael's G-Tube replaced.
I forgot to mention that Michael won a 3rd place ribbon for the softball throw last week. I wasn't there, but I think he had a little help.
Gene Miller, I have not forgotten you. What goes around, comes around and believe me, it's coming.
I think that Michael slept well last night. I'm not sure, I think sometimes I get up in the middle of the night to check on him, but it seems dreamlike. It is
almost automatic. All parents go through this with their infants. Michael is like a 135 pound infant.
March. This will be an emotional month. This will be the month that the teen that had his part in Michael's drowning, will be sentenced. He has been
convicted in a court of law for his crime. He has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Michael's birthday, as well as mine, are in this month.
Spring break, the time that Michael should be enjoying outdoors, is also this month. I usually enjoy March, but not this year.
We have all heard that time heals all wounds; don't believe it. After 9 months, I still have no forgiveness or compassion in my heart for any of the people
that were at the beach that day. They have scarred us for life and these wounds will never heal.