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Healing scars that can’t be seen

Apr 12, 2011

from Andrea J. Cook's article in the Rapid City Journal:

Three years after their lives violently collided, Shaun Herrod, his fiancee Agnes Steele, and Maconnell Baker seem an unlikely trio to sit in the same room enthusiastically discussing Herrod’s upcoming college graduation.

Life unexpectedly changed for all three of them on May 7, 2008, when Baker — who was high at the time — drove his car into Herrod’s on a north Rapid City street.

As the third anniversary of the accident approaches, the three talk about switching the focus of May 7 from a horrible accident to a memorable graduation.

...At the time of the accident, Baker was high from inhaling household chemicals. After pleading guilty to vehicular battery, he was convicted and received a 10-year suspended prison sentence. The judge also ordered a six-month jail sentence, 300 hours of community service and $147,000 in restitution. Twenty percent of Baker’s salary has been going to pay that restitution. Then, last fall, Baker was granted a suspended imposition of sentence, sealing the court record of his felony conviction at the successful completion of his probation.

Herrod and Steele opposed Baker’s request for a suspended imposition and testified at the hearing in October.

...Ten weeks later, by mutual agreement, Restorative Justice, a program that brings victim and offender together for dialogue and healing, brought Herrod, Steele and Baker together again. They weren’t in a courtroom, sitting on opposing sides, but met, rather, in a homey church parlor with selected family members.

Restorative Justice executive director Joann Conroy and trained volunteer mediators/case leaders Charles Desmond and Suzan Nolan completed the circle, where confidences were shared and many tears shed over the course of an emotional morning.

Before the mediation, Desmond and Nolan met separately with Baker, then Herrod and Steele, to assess their willingness to come together to discuss the accident.

All three people had to agree to meet, Desmond said.

...While the two families talked and shared their stories, they came to an agreement that there are things Baker could do to help the family.

He will soon be taking Herrod to physical therapy appointments. Herrod wants to walk across the stage to accept his diploma in May.

Baker, who works nights, is eager to help shoulder some of the burden.

“I’m eager to help. This is something I created,” Baker said. “His progress is what’s important to me now. … It lifted my heart to know that there can be friendship that can come out of this.”

“I just don’t think things can get any better than that,” Steele said. “Whether he wants to or not, he’s going to be part of our lives. If he is willing to come into it and be a part of our life and be a family friend, to be there for all our achievements, to be there for everything that we go through from here on out … .”

“It’s going to be even bigger and better for us, …” Steele said. “Everything is going to be Shaun and Mac. That’s how I see it.”

Read the whole article.

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