Archive for Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Truck driver gets maximum sentence

Yan R. McHenry to finish year in jail for role in death of Baker student

November 23, 2004


Cindi Trager used to joke that if she looked out the window of her home and saw a grizzly bear coming she'd probably see her son, Shawn, going out to make conversation.

He was a high school wrestler, track star and Baker University football player, but he wasn't too tough to hug and kiss people or to be seen with his arm around his mother, she said.

Cindi Trager and her husband, Matt, stood up in Douglas County District Court on Monday to describe living without their son -- and to ask a judge to give the maximum sentence to the truck driver who killed him April 13 in a a rear-end wreck on U.S. Highway 56.

"Every morning when I wake up, this is what's on my mind. My son's gone," she said.

Judge Robert Fairchild gave trucker Yan R. McHenry, 47, Dallas, the longest sentence he could under state law: one year in jail. McHenry will have to serve only about four months more because he gets credit for time spent awaiting trial.

McHenry, whom a state trooper said admitted using cocaine the day before the wreck, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. But earlier this month a jury cleared McHenry of that charge and found him guilty of the lesser charge of vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor.

Had jurors convicted McHenry of the more serious charge, he would have faced at least 38 months in prison, according to sentencing guidelines.

Jurors said that based on blood tests, they weren't convinced he was actually under the influence of cocaine at the time of the wreck.

Jurors also could have found McHenry guilty of manslaughter if they had found he acted "recklessly," but to do that they would have had to find he knew there was imminent danger to someone else and disregarded it.

The wreck happened on U.S. 56 east of Baldwin when McHenry rear-ended a car in which Shawn Trager, 19, was riding and pushed it into oncoming traffic.

The Tragers, of Chillicothe, Mo., said they planned to write to Kansas lawmakers asking them to change the definition of recklessness. They also plan to go to Texas to observe parole hearings for McHenry, who is on parole from that state for a cocaine-distribution charge.

McHenry and his attorney, Jim George, described the wreck as simply an accident.

"I pray every day that this situation never happened, and my heart still goes out to the family," McHenry said.

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