Advertisement

Photo detail

  • Print
  • Favorite
  • Comment

Joel Hernandez, 22, wipes away tears as he apologizes to the Leek family for his role in the death of their 20-year-old daughter, Rachel Leek, on Oct. 16 as she was riding her bicycle. Hernandez was driving drunk, hit Leek, then fled the scene. He received a sentence of six months in jail followed by one year of probation. Beside him is his attorney, Al Lopes, at the sentencing hearing Thursday in Douglas County District Court.

Comments

lawdog 3 years, 7 months ago

His mother knew about Joel's drinking back when he went to school at LHS and she did NOTHING about it!

'WAKE UP'!

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

What was she supposed to do? How could he control his drinking?

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

If you had a high school age child who was drinking too much, you wouldn't do anything about it??

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

Have you had a high school age child who was drinking too much and tried to control it? Did it work?

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

Wow.

I hope you're not a parent, with that attitude.

Sounds like an argument for abdicating the responsibilities that come with parenting to me.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

"I hope you're not a parent, with that attitude." If you had ever had to walk in my shoes you would most certainly talk to me differently - if you should ever walk in my shoes in the future I will be there for you as you hopefully learn. And, for the record, I am one heck of a parent.

Here is the point I have tried to make: lawdog stated that Joel was already exhibiting drinking problems in high school and lawdog seemed to me to hold Joel's mother responsible for the drinking.

A parent can not control a teenager drinker, especially in a town like Lawrence where the access is easy. A parent can do his or her best to create a nurturing and stable home climate, be a positive role model, and develop an open and honest relationship with a teen. Beyond that it is much more complicated.

Just because a teen makes some poor choices (in a world where there are far too many choices available to begin with) and then gets saddled with a terrible disease does not mean that his mother is to blame. Blaming the mother is the oldest trick in the book and it's simply not acceptable.

lawrence267 3 years, 7 months ago

I don't think you can completely absolve parents either. Like you said it's complicated, but not blaming parents at all is too simple.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

Have you personally dealt with this situation? If not then I think you are not in a position to pass judgment on others who have. Parenting is the world's toughest job and unfortunately things do not always end up as intended through no fault of anyone but by a convergence of a complex set of factors.

lawrence267 3 years, 7 months ago

i think that's a cop out to say that no one is at fault

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

Have you personally dealt with this situation? Do you simply enjoy passing judgment on others?

lawrence267 3 years, 7 months ago

yeah, you can only have an opinion about something if you have personally experienced it.

And once you do experience it, you know about every other situation because they're all the same.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

"I hope you're not a parent, with that attitude." If you had ever had to walk in my shoes you would most certainly talk to me differently - if you should ever walk in my shoes in the future I will be there for you as you hopefully learn. And, for the record, I am one heck of a parent.

Here is the point I have tried to make: lawdog stated that Joel was already exhibiting drinking problems in high school and lawdog seemed to me to hold Joel's mother responsible for the drinking.

A parent can not control a teenager drinker, especially in a town like Lawrence where the access is easy. A parent can do his or her best to create a nurturing and stable home climate, be a positive role model, and develop an open and honest relationship with a teen. Beyond that it is much more complicated.

Just because a teen makes some poor choices (in a world where there are far too many choices available to begin with) and then gets saddled with a terrible disease does not mean that his mother is to blame. Blaming the mother is the oldest trick in the book and it's simply not acceptable.

Kent Fisher 3 years, 7 months ago

I realize that the medical profession categorizes alcoholism as a disease. However, as you said, it begins with a poor choice. It can then grow into an addiction, but certainly not a disease. A habitual drug user does not have a disease. These people made a choice. Categorizing poor behavior as a disease is merely a crutch, and a way to rationalize their condition. Smokers may have lung cancer, but that was the result of a poor choice/habit.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

Addiction IS a disease. The brain chemistry of an addict is altered. This means that when an addict (be it a drug, alcohol, or nicotine addict) makes a choice to stop then withdrawal symptoms occur. Like any disease it affects individuals differently and some are more susceptible than others.

Lung cancer and COPD are diseases that frequently occur as a secondary result of a nicotine addiction.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

A disease such as diabetes most certainly can present itself based on a person's dietary choices and behaviors if that person is genetically susceptible to getting the disease in the first place. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is no different.

Some people have to drink only a few times and they become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Their disease process progresses very rapidly. Others may engage in risky behaviors such as binge drinking early and often and escape unscathed, never to become an alcoholic. That is because people's brain chemistries are different.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

I did not say that diabetes can occur regardless of a person's choices. I said that a person's dietary choices can directly affect whether or not they develop diabetes. Why do you think we have so many diabetics in this country? Diabetes is a preventable disease in many many cases.

pizzapete 3 years, 7 months ago

And once again the sentence doesn't in any way fit the crime. How sad!

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

Your comment is odd.

It certainly may not have been the smartest decision to ride her bike on that street at that time.

But, that hardly excuses him in any way - legally, he is responsible for driving drunk, hitting her, fleeing the scene, and her death. Six months seems like a very lenient sentence to me.

Do you really think that the folks who drink and drive should be allowed to do so, and the rest of us should work around that?

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

It's a terrible metaphor.

Drinking and driving is illegal.

And, if you really think it could "as easily have happened" without alcohol being involved, I think you're quite mistaken. Alcohol is known to impair driving skills and judgement.

Your comment about "people should just...right when the bars close" suggests that the fact that people drink and drive is something that the rest of us should work around.

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

When I asked if you thought we should work around that, you said "no not at all".

Now, you say yes.

Make up your mind.

And, for the record, I exercise good judgment, don't drink and drive, etc.

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

I didn't mean that it should be legal.

Our current policies don't do enough to discourage it and prevent these sorts of tragedies.

6 months in jail is nothing for driving drunk and killing somebody, even if he hadn't fled the scene.

"This guy deserves to spend 6 months in jail for sure, he was drunk"

We need much more aggressive policies if we want to prevent this sort of thing - I'd suggest mandatory ignition interlock devices after the first DUI, and much stricter penalties than we've got right now.

"This could have just as easily happened if the driver was sober" is completely wrong, and ignores the overwhelming evidence that alcohol use impairs driving skills and judgment.

Again, I personally exercise good judgment, and I would advise everybody to do so. But, you seem too willing to let this guy off the hook. Is that perhaps because you drink and drive?

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

If somebody has lights and reflective clothing, I wouldn't call it "freaking reckless" - I might call it slightly bad judgement.

I bet if you looked at statistics about these sorts of accidents, especially involving fatalities, that you will find that in the overwhelming majority of them, alcohol use is involved.

Tennessee St. is mostly a two lane street, and if somebody is visible, it's easy to change lanes and miss them.

I haven't seen a lot of people driving 45 along there, by the way, and I use that street a lot, albeit not at 2am.

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

If she didn't that makes her decision worse.

You keep trying to underplay the role of alcohol in these sorts of accidents. Is it possible that accidents like this can occur even when drivers are sober? Of course. But I'd be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of them involve alcohol use.

Why do you keep trying to downplay that fact?

Do you like to drink and drive, and think it 's not a big deal?

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

You have said a few times that these sorts of accidents could easily occur without alcohol use, and that it has no relevance to how bad her decision was.

I would be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of them do in fact involve alcohol use.

And, if the folks driving around at 2am were sober, she'd have a much better chance of being alive today.

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

And, actually, the word tragic is perfectly suited to this situation.

Greek tragedy involved the downfall of human beings due to a "tragic flaw" in their character - so her poor judgement would fit that definition, if you think she exercised that.

And, Shakepeare's tragedies involved the death of the protagonist.

Obviously, as well, the loss of this young woman for all of those close to her who loved her is immense.

I'd say it's quite a tragedy, in fact.

Eddie Muñoz 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm surprised the LJWorld left this comment up - they usually don't allow for victim-blaming.

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 7 months ago

A very sad situation. This man deserves forgiveness and I believe it is what this young woman would want us to believe.

I believe she was a very loving young woman.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 7 months ago

A friend of mine told me that she had Rachel Leek as a student at Johnson County Community College a few years back. She told me that Rachel was a wonderful person in every way.

And - what was I told that Rachel was doing riding her bicycle on that road so late that night?

Going to work.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

jayhawklawrence (anonymous) says… "A very sad situation. This man deserves forgiveness and I believe it is what this young woman would want us to believe."

This "man" was driving drunk when he hit and killed a young woman on a bicycle. This "man" then fled the scene to let his victim die in the street without bothering to stop, render aid, or even call for a ambulance. You might want to reconsider your definition of a "man" to include more than simply having a penis.

Tara Painter 3 years, 7 months ago

Well said, at least someone has a brain. Maybe she would still be alive if he stopped and called for help.

Amy Heeter 3 years, 7 months ago

I still don't feel bad for Joel, may he rot in Hell. I still wish they would have prosecuted the owner of the car too. She failed to report for days and she wad in the car st the time of the accident.

Fixed_Asset 3 years, 7 months ago

I don't feel sorry for Joel, either, however rotting in hell is a bit strong. I think that anyone that has EVER driven drunk should not be sitting in judgment, but should be thanking their lucky stars they didn't kill someone, too.

xfitter 3 years, 7 months ago

There is something pretty off in your moral compass if you hit someone with your car, drunk or not, and don't stop to check on them or call 911. No one knows or will ever know if he had done those things she MAY not have died. Was it the best possible decision she could have made at the time? Probably not. Does that mean she deserved what happened, no matter how smart or not it was for her to ride on that street, she was in her legal rights and he broke the law in multiple ways. He got off very light for the situation, he's lucky the judge had the same thinking towards her role in the situation.

ksarmychick 3 years, 7 months ago

Her bike was not legal. I have read in many other articles that her bike was lacking any type of reflective gear. As the accident occured at 2am she was required by law to not only have reflectors but to have a headlight and taillight on the bike.
Not saying that it is okay to drink and drive and leave the scene, but she was breaking the law too.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

ksarmychick (anonymous) says… "Her bike was not legal.

Moral equivalency at its very best.

bethann 3 years, 7 months ago

"Maybe he's just crying 'cause he'll be six months without beer and burritos." Is it just me or did anyone else feel a racist tone in this comment? I don't feel it was necessary to allude to Joel's ethnicity in order to make your larger point, and the fact that you did actually undermines your credibility.

Hudson Luce 3 years, 7 months ago

Tennessee Street is one of the most dangerous streets in Lawrence. There should be no parking allowed on either side of it. Since it's a one-way street going south, bike riders have to ride close to the parked cars. If someone begins to open their driver side door with a bike rider coming up from behind, the rider will instinctively move left into the stream of traffic, and if there's a car coming up from behind, on a dark night and in the reduced visibility of a rainstorm, there's a good chance that rider will be hit from behind, either by the front end of the car, clipped by the front right fender, or by the passenger side mirror. If the rider is clipped by the fender or hit by the mirror, there's a good chance the driver will not notice, and drive on. In the process of the collision, the rider could hit the pavement head first and be DOA or suffer severe and perhaps irreversible brain damage. Reflectors on the pedals in this situation are of little use, and headlights point forward and not to the rear. Experienced bike commuters and riders wear reflective clothing, and have bright red flashing tailights to lessen the chance of being rear ended. Most people in a town like Lawrence do not use this amount of safety equipment while riding; perhaps this should be mandated by a city ordinance, but the first thing to do is to eliminate the parking area on the west side of Tennessee Street.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 7 months ago

Those are very valid points, and you have a very well reasoned argument. But the problem is that we live in a culture that values transportation by automobile more than,,,

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

LarryNative (anonymous) replies... "The sentence was light because there were facts in the case that showed both parties were at fault."

Now it is time to play, "Blame The Victim!"

Joel Hernandez was driving drunk which is a serious state crime by itself, even if no one is killed. He kills a young women riding her bike which didn't have a light and is not a crime but a minor infraction of a city ordinance. He then leaves her to die in the gutter. I doubt if she had a light on her bike he would have suddenly had the intellect to distinguish right from wrong or the seriousness of his acts on someone other than his precious self. If death were the result of the degree of fault then he should be dead, not her.

I doubt seriously that Joel Hernandez has suddenly gained a conscience and is filled with remorse, or that when this happens again his actions will be any different, or that he will show more empathy for his future victims.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

Clancy99 (anonymous) replies… "Maybe not - but the chances of him seeing and avoiding her would have been a lot better."

Yes, but it would have done nothing to prevent him from stopping and calling for medical help. If he had shown even a modicum of basic humanity I wouldn't be so hard on Joel Hernandez. Let's face facts, Joel Hernandez is morally bankrupt and at 22 years old that is very unlikely to change.

Clancy99 (anonymous) replies… "And get a grip Sigmund - Larrynative's comment isn't simply "blaming the victim" - it's pointing out a very obvious thing - that both parties actions, including unlawful acts on both parts, led to the incident. "

There is simply no equitable comparison to be made between the crime of driving drunk and failing to have a light on a bicycle which is not a crime and is little more than a violation of a city ordinance. Just what did Joel Hernandez's victim do that that in any way justifies his leaving her to die in the gutter without bothering to stop, littering the road with her broken body and twisted bike?

pudge1 3 years, 7 months ago

Joel My name is Zach Shawano, I hit a house in 2008. It was the biggest mistake of my life and I can tell you that I did learn from it. I was never more ashamed in my entire life than i was that night, and no one was hurt. I do know that ljworld ran the story and as a 19 year old i was rightfully criticized by this websites readers. However I will say that you learn through lifes hardships, and all of these people that say hurtful things are not as perfect as they would think themselves. Life can change in an instant and you have very little time to react, you made a mistake, but the greater mistake would be to ruin two lives from this sad tragedy. I knew you personally and I can say that your not this evil man the media and these "perfect people" project you as. I've learned my lesson and I think you will to but don't let your "Fellow Man" get you down. I'm sorry for the death of this innocent girl but don't destroy two lives for an accident.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

I hope this hits Joel as hard as it did me. Huge respect to you!

pudge1 3 years, 7 months ago

Cool sigmund but you havn't showed much respect on this comment post. You should learn the lessons we all need to learn as well, don't spread hate no matter what someone's opinion is.

Russell Fryberger 3 years, 7 months ago

I have to wonder if Joel will continue to drink.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 7 months ago

I was once privy to an anonymous statement by a former(?) alcoholic in about 1987 or so that had been the driver at fault in a terrible accident that killed two young sisters. He had no memory of the incident at all, he was experiencing a "blackout" at the time.

But, his car was sitting in his driveway with the front smashed, and the keys were in his pocket when the police came knocking on his door and woke him up the next morning.

As far as I know, he never drank again. And, there was nothing he could do about the situation any more, except to tell others what he had done, in the hope that maybe someone would learn from his experience, and not do what he had done.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

pudge1 (anonymous) says… "Cool sigmund but you havn't showed much respect on this comment post. You should learn the lessons we all need to learn as well, don't spread hate no matter what someone's opinion is."

Respect is earned, not given. The honesty of your comments earned my respect. Respectfully, I have found nothing about Joel Hernandez or his apologists that I respect.

coolmarv 3 years, 7 months ago

Who made the rule that respect must be 'earned' and not 'given'? Is it not more human to give respect first. Respect your fellow man until they have proven they don't deserve your repsect or rather yet give them a second chance to keep the respect given to them.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

coolmarv (anonymous) says… "Who made the rule that respect must be 'earned' and not 'given'? Is it not more human to give respect first."

Lacking information about a person I neither respect nor disrespect people I don't know. Once I learn something about a person I respect those who demonstrate by their actions s some quality worthy of respect.

What do you respect the most about Joel Hernandez? The fact that he was driving drunk, the fact that he hit a girl on a bicycle and killed her, or the fact that he left the scene without bothering to call for help?

beatrice 3 years, 7 months ago

Just think, if he had tried to profit from the illegal sales of tickets to college sporting events, he could have received a sentence of 57 months. I guess sporting tickets are 9 times more important.

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

Isn't that horrifying?

And, of course, nonviolent drug offenders are serving life sentences in prison due to "3 strike" laws.

Doesn't make any sense to me.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 7 months ago

And - we pay taxes to make that possible!

jafs 3 years, 7 months ago

As they do with alcohol?

Not sure what your point might be.

Kris_H 3 years, 7 months ago

Why such a short sentence? He's not a juvenile, he was DUI, he killed someoone, he left the scene of the accident. All that should add up to more than six months, shouldn't it?

As to forgiveness, personally I don't think that's my job in this case. Better you should not put yourself into situations where you are going to need to be forgiven. No, I'm not perfect, but I've never gotten behind the wheel drunk and never will. Everybody knows better than that.

Even if the young woman made some bad choices herself (riding at night in that area, not having lights or reflectors on the bike) that does not mitigate what this young man chose to do. He should pay the heaviest penatly the law allows, not the lightest. I hope he wakes up with her death on his mind every single day for the rest of his life.

Sigmund 3 years, 7 months ago

Kris_H (anonymous) says… "Why such a short sentence? He's not a juvenile, he was DUI, he killed someoone, he left the scene of the accident. All that should add up to more than six months, shouldn't it?"

I think most Kansans would agree. A recent bill signed into law in Kansas would make leaving the scene of a fatal accident a level 6 felony. From the relevant parts of the bill:

K.S.A. 8-1602. (a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to, great bodily harm to or death of any person or damage to any attended vehicle or property shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident, or as close thereto as possible, but shall then forthwith immediately return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of K.S.A. 8- 1604, and amendments thereto. (b) A person who violates subsection (a) when an accident results in: (1) Total property damages of less than $1,000 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished as provided in K.S.A.8-2116, and amendments thereto. (2) Injury to any person or total property damages in excess of $1,000 or more shall be guilty of a class A person misdemeanor. (3) Great bodily harm to any person shall be guilty of a severity level 8, person felony. (4) The death of any person shall be guilty of a severity level 6, person felony, except as provided in subsection (a)(5). (5) The death of any person, if the person knew or reasonably should have known that such accident resulted in injury or death, shall be a level 5, person felony.

K.S.A. 8-1604. (2) Such driver, insofar as possible, shall immediately make efforts to determine whether any person involved in such accident was injured or killed, and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/year1/measures/documents/hb2044_enrolled.pdf

Commenting has been disabled for this item.