Can we mandate Good Samaratinism?

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 20 Aug 96 21:23:28 -0400

Beyond the Reach of the Law

) ) Badly beaten, Joey Levick died after lying for hours in a ditch near
Seattle. Two men were tried for murder. But no statute covered those who knew
he was there but didn't act to save him. His mother seeks a change.

By BARRY SIEGEL, Times Staff Writer

FEDERAL WAY, Wash.--It should have been a satisfying moment, if not
cause for celebration. A jury had just declared Jason Soler and Jason Twyman
guilty of second-degree murder in the brutal beating of 21-year-old Joey
Levick. Justice had been served; the assailants would pull long time.
Hardly anyone felt satisfied, though. Levick's mother, Melva, didn't.
Nor did King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Patricia Eakes. Nor, for that
matter, did the jurors who'd just convicted Soler and Twyman.
At the trial's end in mid-November 1994, those dozen citizens
approached the prosecutor. Dismay darkened their faces.

What happened to Joey was terrible, they declared. How could those four
other people not try to help him? Aren't you going to charge them?
Eakes searched for an answer.
Having heard much the same from Melva Levick for months, she understood
well whom the jurors had in mind. Soler's mom. Twyman's girlfriend. Twyman's
brother. Twyman's sister-in-law. Testimony had revealed much about their role
in Levick's death.
At least three of the four, the evidence demonstrated, knew he had been
left beaten in a drainage ditch off Highway 509 before dawn on June 2. All
four eventually learned he still was lying there late that afternoon. One,
visiting the scene, observed him sitting hunched over in the ditch, badly
bruised and bloodied.
As that Thursday unfolded, though, none of them summoned help. Not
until 15 hours after the beating, did Soler and his mother lead police to the
They were two hours too late. Levick didn't die directly from the
beating; incapacitated, he drowned, after 13 hours, in the ditch's two inches
of water.
I assumed Joey was OK. I assumed others had called 911. I assumed
they'd already come for him. I didn't want to get involved. That's what the
assailants' friends and relatives told authorities.
Such claims disturbed the prosecutors as much as the jurors and
Levick's mother. But, in the end, as hard as it was for others to believe,
Eakes could see no crime in these people's conduct. Except in certain
child-care situations, few statutes compel citizens to act when someone is in
danger. The law rarely punishes people for what they don't do. Failures of
moral responsibility exist largely beyond the reach of the courtroom.
The jurors returned to their private lives; Twyman drew a 25-year
sentence; Soler won a new trial because of comments in the prosecutor's
closing argument. Time, though, could not dilute a mother's dismay. It
remained incomprehensible to Melva Levick that no one had helped her son for
15 hours. It remained even more mind-boggling that this failure to act wasn't
a crime. How could that be?
One day last February, it finally occurred to her to ask another
question: Why should it be?
So began a singular grass-roots campaign to make certain moral failures
a crime in Washington state. It's fair to say Melva Levick, 47, has touched a
chord. More than 107,000 citizens have signed her petition to make it illegal
not to aid a violent-crime victim in desperate need. Her newspaper ads have
drawn hundreds of calls.The King County prosecutor has agreed to help draft a
statute. State legislators have promised action at their next session.
"Why not?" said State Rep. Tim Hickel. "I think there are a lot more
Levick-type cases out there than we realize."
Questions do arise among those facing the task of converting all this
fervor into an enforceable law. How to define a citizen's obligation? How to
determine what a person knew, and when? How to mandate honorable behavior?
For the moment, though, such concerns are being brushed aside. The
tantalizing prospect of altering human nature by statute beckons.
Can laws really make people moral? "You bet," Melva Levick declares.
"You bet."
Accounts of the events surrounding Levick's death vary, as do
interpretations. Those denounced by the prosecutors and his mother insist they
did everything they could to help him, given the circumstances and what they
knew. The lawyer for Soler--who is free on bond pending appeal--flatly
describes his client as Levick's frustrated would-be savior. Despite this
welter of conflicting voices, it is possible, through a review of transcripts,
taped statements, trial testimony and court documents, to gain a sense of
what happened on the day Levick died.
Like many of his friends, his was a world not yet fully formed. He
lived with his parents and helped with a family T-shirt business. He had a
high school degree and thoughts about attending community college, but devoted
much of his energy to sports and dancing.
He left home about 10:30 p.m. June 1, telling his parents he was going
to watch movies at his friend Nick Mirante's house. Two hours later, he and
Mirante dropped by a Seattle dance club. There, Levick met Twyman and Soler,
both 20.
Although not close friends, they'd attended the same high school. When
the club closed, Levick headed to a party with them.
What precisely happened next remains unclear.
Soler, who fell asleep in the front passenger seat, professes
ignorance. Twyman, who'd been gulping rum and beer much of the night, insists
he can't remember. At trial, there was talk of Levick reaching from the back
seat to pull the parking brake; there was talk of sexual advances; there was
talk of jealousy over a shared girlfriend. All that can be said for sure is
that an argument broke out in Soler's white Ford Escort as they headed south
on Highway 509.
Between 3 and 3:30 a.m., just past the South 128th Street exit, they
ended up outside the car, fighting violently. There is dispute over who did
what; Soler in one statement insisted he hit Levick only a couple of times, up
on the road, in self-defense, and "didn't hang around much for the fighting."
Levick, at any rate, eventually turned and fled north 50 yards, leaving a
trail of blood. He and at least Twyman tumbled over a guardrail, rolling 15
feet into a drainage ditch.
By the time the fight ended, investigators estimated, Levick had been
kicked about 50 times in the head and chest with steel-toed shoes. He had a
broken jaw and ribs, two broken bones in his neck. He was bleeding inside his
skull; his brain was swelling.
He also was alone. Twyman and Soler had fled on foot. In front of a
veterinary hospital, they parted.
Twyman, crying hysterically, walked to the nearby home of his brother
and sister-in-law, Kevin and Karen Glascock, where he banged on the door at 4
a.m. He'd been in a fight with three men, he told them. He thought he might
have killed one guy. He and Soler had pushed this guy into a ditch. Then
they'd taken off running.
Karen Glascock gawked at her brother-in-law. He stood bent over, crying
and rambling loudly, his clothes splattered with blood. He smelled of
alcohol. She undressed Twyman, put his bloody clothes in a plastic bag, and
gave him clean clothes.
At 4:45 a.m., Twyman called his girlfriend, Joanne Laborde, and told
her of the fight. By 5:30 he and Kevin were driving by the ditch.
"Pull over," Twyman said.
He meant to flee the state, but he'd left his Dayrunner in Soler's car.
In it were his credit cards, checkbook, cash and phone numbers. He needed
Climbing out of his brother's car, Twyman glanced into the ditch. As he
described it in court, Levick was sitting up, his elbows on his knees, his
chin in his hands.
"I was assuming at the time he wasn't hurt as bad as I'd assumed,"
Twyman said. "When I seen him, I figured I might have just exaggerated it all.
. . . I figured he was sitting up and he was OK enough to leave on his own. .
. . Didn't look to me like he needed help. He was sitting up fine."
Kevin Glascock would tell investigators that he remained in the car and
saw nothing. What he heard is another matter.
Did you tell your brother Levick was lying there? an attorney asked
Twyman in court.
"Yes, I did," Twyman replied.
They drove to a gas station, where Twyman threw the bag with his bloody
clothes into a dumpster.
Did you tell your brother you threw your clothes in the dumpster? an
attorney asked.
"I don't know if I did or not. I know he was in the store when I did it."
Near 6 a.m., at the Glascocks' home, Twyman spoke to his sister-in-law,
then called his girlfriend. Months later, both women testified that they
heard nothing from Twyman to cause them concern.
"He said that Joey was OK," his girlfriend recalled.
"We had no idea what really happened," his sister-in-law explained. "I
didn't ask, I didn't want to know. . . . I didn't want to get involved. We
assumed that everything was OK."
When Melva Levick, rising at 5 a.m. on June 2, looked into her son's
bedroom, she saw only an empty mattress.
This did not, at first, concern her. He occasionally spent the night at
friends' houses. When he did, he called home by 10 a.m. Since he helped run
the T-shirt business, he needed to check in. That day, Melva knew, her son had
orders pending and no sales appointments. He would be spending the day in
their garage workshop.
She, meanwhile, would be supervising the dozen young children who
attended her home-based day-care center. Ages 2 months to 6 years, they
commanded all her attention, even with an aide's help.
The first children arrived at 5:30. Soon she had her hands full. What
with reading books, changing diapers and giving bottles, time passed quickly.
Melva Levick lost herself in her work. Her son will call by 10, she thought.
He always calls by 10.
About 5:30 a.m., Soler, bleeding badly from a cut hand, broke into a
shop not far from where Levick lay. He called 911 and talked vaguely of "two
other guys" being in a fight. But when questioned further, he yelled, "What's
to argue about, dude? I've paid tax dollars! So let's get 'em out there!" To
the police who arrived with the medics, he spoke of being kicked out of a
friend's car and left along the road.
"I told them that I needed some medical help and that I'm bleeding very
bad," Soler recalled later that day in a taped statement given to detectives.
"I told the police that I cut my hand on the window of my car. I didn't tell
the police about the fight because. . . . I didn't want to get into anything,
didn't want no more trouble. . . . I just didn't want to go to jail."
After questioning him, a policeman drove Soler to the apartment he
shared with Twyman. Heading south on 509, according to the officer's account,
they passed Soler's car.
At the moment the police car reached their apartment building, Twyman
was outside in his own car, packed and prepared to flee the state. He turned
and froze. Then Soler climbed out and the policeman pulled away.
Twyman tried to persuade Soler to flee with him. Failing, he drove
Soler to the workplace of his mother, Marla Soler, and headed to Tire World.
He'd need new wheels to drive across country.
Near 9 a.m., Twyman's girlfriend found him at the tire store. They
talked for about 45 minutes before he drove off. On his way out of town, he
passed the ditch. He noticed that Soler's car was gone. He didn't stop, he
said later, because he assumed the officer who'd had the car towed had seen
"How could they miss him?" Twyman testified. "I assumed someone had
picked him up."
So, according to her testimony, did Twyman's girlfriend: "He told me
again that Joey seemed OK, that Joey was sitting up on the side of a ditch."
So, according to her testimony, did Twyman's sister-in-law: "The car
was towed, so we assumed he was OK."
Melva Levick glanced at the clock. It was a little past 9 a.m. She felt
nervous. Something wasn't right, something she couldn't pinpoint. She kept
watching for her son's car.
Workbooks came out. Crayons spilled across the floor. Some children
practiced numbers and letters, some built objects from pine cones collected in
the yard. Studying the blue skies beckoning through her window, Melva plotted
an excursion to collect leaves.
Less than an hour to go now, she told herself. Less than an hour before
he calls.
Soler's mother reacted with concern when the Twyman boy dropped her son
at her workplace at 8 a.m. She already had heard something about the fight in
calls from both men, but she didn't realize how badly her son had been hurt.
His finger had been cut wide open; he needed stitches.
First, though, she drove him to her home, where she washed his bloody
clothes. Only then did she take him to a hospital. When they returned home at
10 a.m., he took a nap.
At 10:05 a.m., Melva Levick could wait no longer. Hanging back as the
children filed outside to hunt butterflies, she phoned Nick Mirante, but no
one answered. Then she dialed other friends of her son. Some weren't home.
Those who were hadn't seen him. Where is he? she wondered.
At 2 p.m., Twyman's girlfriend, Joanne Laborde, called Soler at his
mother's house. By then, Soler knew his car had been taken to Gene Meyer
Towing. He asked if she could come with him and his mom to retrieve it.
Returning home at 3:45 p.m., Soler realized his pager was missing from
the car, and probably had been lost in the fight. "It was very important for
his job that we find that," his mother testified.
It apparently now also was important for Soler to learn about Levick.
According to Laborde's statement to detectives, Soler was growing "just
hysterical" about Levick. Soler didn't know what had happened, he didn't know
if Levick had been helped. He wanted to go back and see if he was still there.
So about 11 hours after the assault, Soler and Laborde drove to the ditch.
"Joey was sitting up in the ditch," she testified. "His head was kind
of bended up, so the water was underneath his knees. And I saw him like lay
down. Down in the ditch, at the very bottom, 25 or 30 feet away. . . . We
started running down that direction. We both stepped over the guardrail. . . .
I stayed at the top."
Both she and Soler could see that Levick was badly injured. He was
covered in blood, he had a soft spot on the back of his head, his face was
terribly swollen. Not his eyes, though, according to Laborde. "I remember him
making eye contact with me," she said.
In his first interview with detectives, Soler said he didn't go into
the ditch or speak to Levick. In a later taped interview, he said he did.
That's how Laborde recalled it in the courtroom:
"Jason went down into the ditch to see him. . . . Joey sat back up and
raised his hand to Jason. . . . I told Jason not to move him because I didn't
know how bad he was hurt. . . . Joey lay back down, face up."
In his taped statement, Soler indicated that Levick said then that he
wanted his mom called. Whether this happened is dubious, for medical experts
think he was semi-comatose by then. What can be said is that within minutes of
arriving, Soler and Laborde left.
"I didn't know what else to do," she testified. "I was scared. I didn't
know what to do."
By 4 p.m., Levick's phone was ringing almost nonstop, the calls
answered by a voice mail service. The shrill chiming made Melva Levick feel
half crazy. She didn't know the code she needed to retrieve the messages.
Instead, she called her husband, Joe, at the brewery where he worked.
Don't worry, he said. He just forgot to call. He'll be OK.
She tried to tell herself just that. He's OK, she murmured, he's OK.
Outside her window, she could see her day-care flock playing in the
woods behind her home. Some were headed toward the house, clutching bundles of
leaves. She reached for the glue. The kids would want to fasten their leaves
to construction paper, then trace them with crayons.
He's OK, she repeated. He's OK.
Between 4:15 and 4:30, Soler and Laborde appeared at the Glascocks'.
When told Levick was still in the ditch and was badly injured, Karen Glascock
urged Laborde to call 911--but from a pay phone at the corner store. When
Laborde expressed concern about leaving fingerprints on a public phone,
Glascock gave her a plastic glove.
"She was trying to calm me down," Laborde testified. "She was trying to
comfort me. . . . I didn't want to get involved. It didn't concern me; I
didn't want to be involved."
At 4:48 p.m., Laborde called 911 from a Circle K store. She said she
was driving home on 509 and saw "some guy" in a ditch between 128th and 140th
streets who needed help. She didn't offer a precise location or explain that
he wasn't visible from the road.
"I didn't know what to say," she testified. "It was just really scary
and I didn't know what to do."
The dispatcher transferred her to the state patrol. They asked her if
she had stopped; she said no. They asked for her name; she declined to give
At that moment, Laborde was standing four blocks north and five blocks
west of where Levick lay. When she hung up, she drove to the Glascock home.
Along the way, she testified, she saw a white Bronco with lights and sirens on
4th Avenue. It wasn't an ambulance, and she couldn't tell if it was going
onto the freeway, but she "kind of assumed that they were, you know . . .
being sent out."
It was about 5:30 p.m. Soler and Laborde drove to his parents' home.
Do you feel you did everything you could possibly do to get Joey help?
an attorney asked Laborde in the courtroom.
"Yes," she said.
The last of the children left the Levick home at 6 p.m. Scooping up
pine cones, leaves and crayons, Melva Levick heard a car in the driveway. She
rushed to the window. It was not her son but her husband.
The Levicks' wood-frame house in Federal Way, just south of Seattle,
sat on 3 acres thick with oak, spruce and fir, hidden from the world down a
long dirt driveway. Joe had adopted Helen and Debby, her daughters from a
previous marriage. Then they'd had Joey.
Together now they paced across the living room.
When Laborde and Soler reached his parents' home near 6 p.m., they told
his mother about Levick. That, Marla Soler would testify, was the first time
she learned that he was lying in a ditch, seriously injured or possibly dead.
Until then, "I was told that he was fine."
Instead of calling anyone from her home, she and her son drove off.
"There was commotion going on," she explained on the witness stand. "Joanne
was crying hysterically, and Jason was talking to his father and rushing me. .
. . And, at first, Joanne was on the telephone when I was going to call. . .
. I grabbed my purse and we went out. . . . I was in shock and panicked,
because I didn't know that that boy had been there all day."
At 6:26 p.m., Marla Soler called 911 from a Safeway market. She told
the dispatcher she "wanted to find out if there was a boy found on Highway
509." She didn't say they needed to send help because, she explained in court,
"I was under the impression that 911 had been previously called."
After being transferred, then told to call back on a nonemergency line,
Marla Soler later said she twice got disconnected. Giving up, she and her son
drove north on 99 to a state patrol office. It was closed, so they banged on
a back door. Trooper Ron Hawkins-Tuggle opened it.
There is some dispute as to just what Marla Soler told Tuggle. "I told
him there was a boy injured on 509, and I needed to find out if an ambulance
had responded. . . . I didn't go into a lot of specifics," is how she recalled
it. Whatever her words, Tuggle ended up pointing them to a pay phone,
advising them to make a nonemergency 911 call.
At 6:41, Marla Soler again called 911. "When the operator came on, she
asked me what I was reporting, and I said I'm not reporting anything. I need
to find out if an ambulance has been sent out." Put on hold and transferred
twice, Marla Soler eventually hung up and drove off with her son, heading to a
police station in Burien, near where Levick lay.
By now, she was growing insistent, if still not entirely clear. At
Burien, she gave a sergeant what she later called a "brief idea" of the day's
events, insisting he visit the ditch. When he called and learned no ambulance
had been dispatched, he agreed.
It was 7:30 p.m. when the patrol car reached the ditch.
Three-and-a-half hours had elapsed since Jason Soler and Laborde visited the
site. Levick no longer was sitting up or imploring with a raised arm. He lay
face down in two inches of water.
All day, Melva Levick had been trying to reach Nick Mirante. At 7:30
p.m., her husband suggested they drive to the nearby Albertson's Market where
Mirante had a part-time job. Maybe he was working tonight.
He was. Concerned, he called his mother, who reported that Levick's car
still was parked outside the Mirante home.
The Levicks retrieved their son's car, then, back home at 8:30, called
the police. You have to wait 24 hours, an officer explained, to report a
missing person.
It was a television news bulletin at 9:50 p.m. that finally directed
the Levicks to their son. A 21-year-old Federal Way man's body has been found
in a ditch off Highway 509, the newscaster announced. On the screen, the
Levicks studied an aerial view of the site.
One of Levick's buddies drove to the scene. At 11:30, he called. "It's
Joey," he said.
The authorities didn't want the parents to come down to identify the
body. It was, they explained, too badly beaten.
In the Bible, it is a lawyer whose question--"What shall I do to
inherit eternal life?"--prompts the telling of the Good Samaritan parable.
Jesus speaks of "a certain Samaritan" who rescued a half-dead wounded man
after a priest and a Levite passed him by; then Jesus advises the inquiring
lawyer to "Go, and do thou likewise."
No equivalent advice can be found among the statutes of Washington, or
any other state.
Studying Joey Levick's death, casting about for passages in the
Washington criminal code even remotely relevant, the closest King County
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eakes could come up with was the statute against
"rendering criminal assistance."
A person renders criminal assistance, it read, if with "intent to
prevent, hinder or delay the apprehension" of someone he knows has committed a
crime, he "harbors or conceals" that person. Or warns that person of
"impending apprehension." Or provides that person with "means of avoiding
apprehension." Or obstructs anyone from aiding in the apprehension of that
person. Or provides that person with a weapon. Or conceals physical evidence.
Eakes would later say she "definitely gave a lot of thought" to
charging others beyond Twyman and Soler. She consulted colleagues; she
listened to Melva Levick's distraught pleas for justice; she considered the
fact that Joey Levick probably would have lived if someone had helped him.
The statute's wording, though, didn't make illegal what a person failed
to do. The law focused on what you did with a suspect to prevent him from
being apprehended. It was true, if you don't identify Levick in the ditch,
then no one discovers the crime, so you've assisted the suspect. But the
statute didn't address such a circumstance. The statute involved very precise
It seemed clear to Eakes and her colleagues: The
rendering-criminal-assistance law just didn't fit the Levick case.
What did fit?
It was hard for the prosecutors to say. From conflicting and varying
accounts, it would be difficult to prove precisely what those four people
knew, and when they learned it. Despite the delays and pay phones and
imprecise reports, these people could claim they had urged or made 911 calls.
A girlfriend looking out for her man's best interests, an in-law wishing to
remain uninvolved, a mother washing a son's bloody clothes--you could argue
such acts weren't all that unnatural. In their pretrial interviews, some
conducted with lawyers present, not one of the four thought they'd done
anything wrong. "We tried with all our hearts to get help," Marla Soler
Eakes didn't think they were posturing. These were, to her, people who
genuinely didn't recognize any moral failure in their conduct. How do you
charge people with lacking a conscience?
At the second-degree murder trial of Twyman and Soler in November 1994,
Eakes vigorously challenged defense witnesses Karen Glascock, Marla Soler and
Laborde, so much so that one attorney complained the prosecutor was making
Laborde "look like an accomplice, if not a suspect."
In her closing argument, Eakes told the jurors, "It is not just Jason
Twyman and Jason Soler who knew Joey was in that ditch. Karen and Kevin
Glascock knew it, and Joanne Laborde knew it, and Mrs. Soler knew it for some
time before anything was done. . . . Joey got to die a long and slow and
painful death at the bottom of that ditch. . . . And a lot of people knew he
was there."
Finally, though, the state held only two people responsible for Joey
Levick's death; the legal system passed no judgment on their friends and
relatives. Then, two months later, a judge granted Soler a new trial because
Eakes in her closing arguments referred to his failure to testify. Such an
outcome may have satisfied the dictates of the law, but it simply wasn't
enough for those most familiar with Levick's death.
Surrounding Eakes minutes after the verdict, the jurors spoke of how
awful they felt for the Levicks. How could those people not do anything? they
asked the prosecutor. What's going to happen to those people?
Eakes had no better answer for the jurors than she'd had for Levick's mother:
"There's no law ," she told them, "that allows us to charge anyone else."
It was a visitation from Joey Levick that finally spurred his mother
into action last February. She discloses that with a blank-faced shrug,
knowing some people will think her crazy.
She'd spent months drifting from her bed to her living room to a string
of psychiatrists' offices, dutifully swallowing the pills they prescribed.
She'd avoided the trial, feeling unable to endure its revelations, but her
son's 15 hours in the ditch nonetheless filled her dreams and waking hours.
People coming back, staring at him, not doing anything. She couldn't imagine
it. She particularly couldn't imagine him pleading for someone to call his
mom. That she chose not to believe.
She wanted to die, mainly. She wanted to be with her boy. Then came
that visitation.
It was during the day, but she was in bed. "Joey told me to get off my
butt, to pull my life together. 'Get yourself out of this,' he said. 'Help
other people.' "
Why not? she decided. If we can have laws telling you to wear seat
belts, why not a law telling you to help desperately injured people?
Within days she had her attorney draft a petition for passage of the
"Joey Levick bill," which would make it a crime to "intentionally ignore an
obviously injured . . . victim of a violent crime" and to "fail to administer
help or call for emergency assistance." She collected signatures, writing
legislators, buying newspaper ads. Soon her phone rang nonstop.
By late spring, both of her state representatives, Maryann Mitchell and
Tim Hickel, had pledged their support. So had Dan Satterberg, chief of staff
in the King County prosecuting attorney's office. So had the political arm of
the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at Boeing. As of
mid-August, Melva Levick had a 25-person volunteer squad, more than 107,000
signatures and recognition from the state's legislative leadership.
"They have assured us we will have a bill next session," said Mitchell.
"There will be a Joey Levick bill."
Just what that bill will involve remains unresolved. Those
contemplating the precise wording confess to certain doubts.
How to prove that someone knew a person was seriously injured? What
about a person lying on the street who may or may not be a drunk?
How soon must you get to a phone? What if rendering aid puts you at
risk? Can we really mandate moral behavior?
"How to find the words for this law is going to be difficult," observed
Mitchell. "We're trying to put in words where the edge of the universe
"You can't have a broad law mandating that people be Good Samaritans,"
said Satterberg.
But even those as cautious as Mitchell and Satterberg have found
irresistible the prospect of making moral indifference a crime. After offering
their concerns, they start talking of possibilities.
We ought to be able to deal with this, they say. You can't make it
retroactive; you can't apply it to the Levick case. But we ought to be able to
do more than throw up our hands. If government has any purpose at all, it's
to reinforce what's right. We have a model in the mandatory reporting laws for
child abuse. How about broadening that concept?
"Maybe people can be held accountable," Satterberg offered. "Maybe we
can send a small message that certain conduct isn't just morally wrong, but
illegal. Maybe we can chip away at the notion that you can just turn your back
on others. Maybe we can use the law to shape the cultural outlook."
So it is that one distraught mother has come to fan uncommon hopes.
These days, her home bristles with activity. Volunteers help with the phone;
piles of petitions arrive.
Through it all, Melva Levick sits expressionless on her couch,
satisfied with the response, but steeling herself for each new public
encounter, since it usually requires her to review her son's death. In order
to launch her campaign, she explains, "I had to get the guts to repeat the
story over and over."
Her ability to do so in the end may have as much of an effect as any
statute. Until she spoke out, after all, few understood fully just how and why
Joey Levick died. Nor did they understand that much of what transpired one
day in a ditch off Highway 509 was simply beyond the reach of the law. Now
that they do realize, many are shocked and disturbed.
In this way, Melva Levick's campaign already has accomplished much.
"That what happened isn't a crime," she said one recent morning. "That's what
I want people to know."

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