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Every 51 Minutes

This is how often an alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurs in the United States. That's 28 deaths per day.


The number of people killed nationally in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2012. That's 31 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Hitting Home

In 2012, 1,498 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in Texas. That's 44 percent of all traffic-related deaths on Texas roadways.

Night and Day

The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2012 was nearly four times higher at night than during the day.

The Cost of DWI

A City of Bryan Special Report

Chapter 1: A Life Shattered
Chapter 2: No Child Should Go Through This
Chapter 3: In The Line of Duty
The Victims

The Flipside
Chapter 4: The Ripple Effect
Chapter 5: The Wake-Up Call
Chapter 6: The Message


hey are fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are the people you see at the grocery store, friends you see in school, people you look up to, people you look down on. They come from every walk of life, every religion, every ethnic background and every socioeconomic class. And they all have one thing in common. They have all been impacted by drinking and driving.

No statistics about drinking and driving can tell a story of pain, loss, survival and resilience. Statistics can only show the depth of the problem. But these tales are not about numbers. They are about real people who have suffered real heartbreak. And these same tragedies can happen to anyone. They are widows and orphans, survivors and mourners, friends and family. And they have all lost something.

Chapter 1: A Life Shattered


ike and Laura Dean were a young couple with their whole lives in front of them. It was November 1991. Mike and Laura had been married for a couple of years and had just welcomed their first child into the world the previous March. Adding to the excitement, Mike had recently taken a new job as an assistant vice president for Western Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company in Colorado.

"Everything was going great," says Laura. "When our baby came along in March 1991, our lives got even better!"

It was an exciting time -- new baby, new job, new life in Colorado -- and it appeared that good times lay ahead for them.

But as Laura would find out in late November 1991, sometimes bad things happen to good people.


ike Dean was an outgoing and determined man who loved life. An only child, Mike had overcome dyslexia in his youth and had gone on to graduate from Tarleton State University with both bachelor's and master's degrees. "He had a lot of determination in his life," says Laura. "He never said an ugly word about anyone, and always had a really beautiful smile on his face."

In November 1991, Mike's job involved traveling throughout a seven-state area around Colorado where he would lead training sessions for Western Farm Bureau. On Nov. 21, Mike was finishing up a training session in Chickasha, Okla., and was driving to visit family in Boyd, Tex. But seeing as how he was so close to his favorite Mexican restaurant, Joe T. Garcia's in downtown Fort Worth, he decided to go have dinner there and then go see his family.

Mike left Joe T. Garcia's at about 7 p.m. and was driving his mother's Ford Crown Victoria northbound, in the left-hand lane, on Hwy. 287 just north of Fort Worth. He had no alcohol in his system, he had his seatbelt on, and he was not driving with excessive speed. But as he topped the overpass at Blue Mound Road, everything changed forever.

The man driving the four-door Cadillac didn't have his seatbelt on. He had an open bottle of whiskey in his vehicle. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was .34 -- four times the current legal limit. He was going 83 mph in a 55 mph zone. And he was going the wrong way down the four-lane highway.

The Cadillac struck Mike's vehicle and the two cars hit with a combined speed of 135 mph. No matter what safety precautions are taken, crashes at those speeds are generally not survivable.

Both Mike Dean and the drunk driver were killed.


ate on Nov. 21, 1991, Laura was sitting in bed, wondering why she hadn't heard from Mike that day. Mike always called home, but it was approaching 11 p.m. and he had yet to call. One of Laura's friends had recently gone through a traumatic experience, so Laura was reading a book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," trying to wrap her mind around tragedies that can and do happen.

And then the doorbell rang.

She looked out her window and saw the vehicle of one of her friends parked outside. She thought to herself: What are they doing here this late at night? She went downstairs and opened the front door. Facing her were two friends and her pastor.

"Everyone knows when a minister or a rabbi or a police officer is at your door late at night, it's not going to be good news," she says.

So began what Laura Dean-Mooney describes as the longest night of her life.

A Family Changed Forever

(Click to enlarge)
  • Mike and Laura Dean
  • Mike Dean
  • Mike Dean and his baby
  • Mike, Laura and their baby
  • Mike Dean's car after the accident
  • Mike Dean's car after the accident -- a second picture

The Facts

Mike Dean was not intoxicated.
Mike Dean was wearing his seatbelt.
Mike Dean was not excessively speeding.
Mike Dean was still killed when a drunk driver struck him in a head-on collision.
The drunk driver was going the wrong way on a four-lane highway.
The drunk driver was going 83 mph in a 55 mph zone.
The drunk driver's blood alcohol content was four times the legal limit.

Chapter 2: No Child Should Go Through This


essica Olguin went to sleep in her father's truck one night in 2003, thinking about the childhood joys of going to a carnival. She and her family had been out of town visiting relatives, and they were on their way back to Bryan. She had asked her father if she could sleep over with one of her cousins because they wanted to go to the carnival the next day. But her father said, "No, we'll see what happens tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I can take y'all early to the carnival."

Jessica was 11 years old and would usually argue with her dad, but this time she just accepted it and thought to herself, okay, we'll see what happens tomorrow. "I didn't know at the moment that that's what I would last hear from him," Jessica says. "I just looked forward to the next day."

So she drifted off to sleep on the way home, thinking about those childhood joys. But when she woke up, she wasn't at home. She was in a hospital.


essica and her family were hit by a drunk driver on Nov. 2, 2003, as they were coming back to Bryan from their family gathering. The collision occurred near Hwy. 21 and Hwy. 47 as the family was traveling eastbound on Hwy. 21 coming from Rockdale. A vehicle being driven by a drunk driver in his 30s struck them. Jessica, her mother and her brother were injured. Jessica's father and sister were killed. The drunk driver and one of his two passengers was also killed.

When Jessica woke up, she was excited. I'm at home and I'm ready to go the carnival, she thought. But as she opened her eyes, her vision was blurry. Once it started to clear up, she realized that she was in a small room with a small bed -- a hospital bed -- and that she had lots of machines and wires around her.

"I was scared. I didn't know what was going on," she says. "I kept pushing the button to call the nurse to come and explain to me why I was there."

When a nurse finally arrived, Jessica tried to speak to her but was unable to because she had a tube in her mouth. "So the way we communicated was she brought an alphabet and I had to point at the letters to ask her about where I was, what was going on, where my family was," she says.

Jessica says it is hard to remember exactly when she knew that something was wrong and that her father and sister had been killed. She says she remembers very little about some days and weeks. "But when I asked the nurse, she basically made it seem to me that everything was okay and everyone was fine," she says. "And from there I was not relieved. I kind of felt something in me that told me there was something else. I was just told that we were in a car accident and we were all there -- and that we were hit by a drunk driver."


hen Jessica saw her doctor, she asked him about her condition because she couldn't feel half of her body.

"I always kept wondering and thinking, 'Okay, I will get up out of this bed at some point. It will all go back to normal.' I kept thinking inside my head, and saying that I would go back to my normal life," Jessica says. "Because I never imagined anything like that happening to me. You always think it happens to other people."

Her doctor broke the news to her that she was not going to be able to walk anymore. Jessica had sustained a spinal cord injury in the crash and had lost the connection from her brain to her legs. "At that moment I was like, 'Well, there's nothing worse than this. I cannot get worse than this,' " she says.

But a few days later, she felt like she had to ask some of her family members some direct questions about her mother, father and siblings. "They told me, 'Melissa passed away, as well as your father.' I was shocked," she says. "I thought, 'Anything but that.' "

When she finally came home from the hospital, Jessica says, she was excited but scared too. "It was me getting out on my own and having to become independent. Because I never thought I would be able to do things on my own. I thought I was always going to be dependent on someone to do everything for me," she says. "I knew it was going to be strange ... because it was never going to be the same routine as it was before."

She was also worried about going back to school, if she was going to have any friends, if they would support her or if she would be bullied now because of her situation. "I was greeted with a very warm welcome back to school. I actually made more friends than I ever did have before the accident," she says. "I was so happy to have them being so helpful and understanding of my issue."

Jessica went on to graduate from high school and go to college. She says she thinks about her father every time she goes to school now. "I think about him ... and about what he wanted for me. About how ... his dream became mine. And how even though he's gone, I can still make his dream come true," she says. She has attended Sam Houston State University and is currently enrolled at Blinn College, where she's studying criminal justice with a goal of becoming a probation officer. She says she eventually wants to go on to law school and become an attorney.


very year, every day, there is still a struggle associated with Jessica's disability. There's always a possibility that some new issue or challenge will arise that is a result of the collision. "I've been in the hospital so many times," she says. "And it all goes back to because of the accident. Because of my disability. Because I lost a kidney."

"So I think overall just surviving is the most difficult part," she says. "The victims that are left surviving are the ones that have to deal with the everyday difficulties and stress -- stairs, what other people say about it. It's just a difficult change. And just losing the loved ones ... I still have a hard time understanding that they're just gone."

But through this experience, Jessica says, she has learned to help others. "I've learned from this bad experience to help others to change their lives and hopefully not have this happen to another family -- save them from going through this," she says.

She says people just need to think about what they are doing before they choose to drink and drive. "Think about the outcomes," she says. "A lot of people say, 'Well, I can get home. I'm fine, I didn't drink too much.' Or, 'I've done it before.' "

"Getting home -- you don't know if you're going to get home." she says. "If you're drunk ... you might not get there."

Jessica's Struggle

(Click to enlarge)
  • Jessica's little sister, Melissa, and her father, Hector, were killed in the crash with a drunk driver
  • Jessica says her sister was happy and playful and loved going to school. And Jessica says her father was very proud of her and was very dedicated to their family
  • Jessica was paralyzed from the waist down in the crash.

In Her Own Words

"I always kept wondering and thinking, 'Okay, I will get up out of this bed at some point. It will all go back to normal.' I kept thinking inside my head, and saying that I would go back to my normal life. Because I never imagined anything like that happening to me. You always think it happens to other people."
- Jessica Olguin

The Statistics

It is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.
Of the 10,322 people who died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in the United States in 2012, 65 percent were drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher.
Alcohol-impaired-driving crashes declined by 21 percent from 2003 to 2012.
In 2012, 20 percent of all child fatalities (age 14 and younger) in motor vehicle crashes occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.
In 2012, the 21- to 24-year-old age group had the highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes with BAC levels of .08 or higher -- 32 percent.

Chapter 3: In the Line of Duty


racy Sheets isn't a big fan of routines. So it was nice that each day in her career as a police officer was just a bit different.

Tracy has lived in the Bryan-College Station area since about 1986. She attended Texas A&M but ended up getting her criminal justice degree from Sam Houston State University. She started as an officer with the College Station Police Department in 1993.

"It was more than a career," Tracy says. "Much like being in the military, law enforcement becomes a lot of who you are -- it's in the blood."

Tracy worked on patrol and crime scene investigations, so she was able to interact with the community -- to be out on the streets, helping businesses, helping people. But she also had a chance to do the detail-oriented, scientific areas of the job -- collecting evidence and being involved in more serious cases. "I really got the best of both worlds," she says.

Tracy's career in law enforcement was a way for her to help people, to make a difference. She spent time as a community policing officer and tells about meeting a struggling mother with two young children. Tracy saw their living conditions and gave her own childhood bedroom furniture to the family. She says it led to one of the best feelings she's ever had.

"Little things you do can mean so much to people," Tracy says.


racy Sheets was a College Station police officer for 17 years. And it's a good bet that she would still be on the beat -- if it weren't for the crash.

It happened about 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2010. Tracy was working an overnight shift when a call came in that some cars were possibly racing or mudding on her beat -- around Barron Road in south College Station. Tracy went to check it out, driving westbound on Eagle Avenue. She was going about 15 mph.

She says she saw headlights coming toward her; she started to think that they were moving really fast. And they were. So fast, in fact, that Tracy didn't even have time to finish her thought before she was experiencing the worst pain she had ever felt. "It felt like every bone in my ankle and my foot were being crushed. And then I was just dazed for a little bit," she says. Even though she registered pain, she didn't realize exactly what had happened.

Tracy's patrol car had just been destroyed by a drunk driver going more than 80 mph. The car that had crashed into her was a Maserati with four people inside. The driver was a 21-year-old woman whose blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit. The passengers had yelled out. They had seen Tracy's patrol car. But the driver, under the influence, could not respond in time and could not negotiate a curve in the road. She hit Tracy's vehicle head-on, just on Tracy's side of center.

As Tracy's mind began to clear, she tried to get out of her car and realized that she couldn't move. Nothing in the car was where it was supposed to be. She used the radio on her belt to let dispatch know what had happened, and she says she heard voices asking if she was okay.

"And I couldn't figure out where they came from," she says. "I don't remember seeing anything."

But Tracy was a police officer. And despite her injuries, she tried to stay on top of the situation. She asked if the occupants of the other vehicle were okay. And she told the people trying to help her to stop: In her pinned situation, trying to get her out of her car at that moment would have only led to more injury. "I'm just trying to stay calm ... because it's my job," she says. "I'm trying to find out if the other people are hurt. But I couldn't be the patient."

Not yet.


hen the emergency responders arrived, they had to cut Tracy out of her car -- such was the destruction caused by the crash. She remembers going to College Station Medical Center, and she remembers being put on a helicopter to be flown to Temple. But she doesn't remember the flight.

Tracy's injuries were numerous. A hip and her pelvis were broken; all of her ribs on her right side were fractured; the ACL in her left knee was damaged. But worst of all was her right ankle. It had more breaks than she could count. "They said the only time they've seen that particular set of fractures is in airline crashes, because of the sheer forces involved due to the speeds," Tracy says.

And so began her struggle through surgeries and rehab -- a struggle that would eventually end her career as a police officer.

Tracy had an initial surgery in which her hip was put in traction, and then a second surgery in which doctors pinned her hip and put pins in her ankle. She began rehab and had to learn how to negotiate a wheelchair.

Tracy's family is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and her sister is a nurse, so she initially moved there to continue her rehab. She said it was very difficult: There she was, 40 years old and very independent, but now forced to rely on others to do everything. She couldn't take a shower or use the bathroom without help. "All dignity is gone," she says. And her family's life was turned upside down as well. "That was hard. To know that you're causing all of that in people's lives."

She was approved to begin using crutches in May 2010, but she had to start with parallel bars because her brain and her feet weren't yet on the same page. It was a struggle, she says, but once she was able to use crutches, it was time to go home. At the end of May 2010, she moved back to College Station.

She went back to work at the police department on light-duty jobs, but her ankle wasn't healing correctly. The screws were backing out -- through her skin -- so she had to have surgery to remove them. Things didn't get better from there. Her ankle would have to be fused, which meant there would be no up and down motion in it. And that meant she couldn't be an officer.

Tracy went through two ankle-fusion surgeries; she went through two rounds of rehab. Finally she was taken off work. "And I finally had to admit that they were right and I wasn't going to be able to be an officer. Which was a hard thing to come to," she says.


t had been a very difficult two years for Tracy. Her workman's comp benefits were coming to an end, and she was faced with tough choices about what she was going to do with her life. She had moved to a civilian position working with evidence at the police department, but she says she had trouble adjusting to that new role, and lingering cognitive issues from the crash made it even harder. She decided to retire from the police department so she could retain her health insurance and have a little bit of income. This would allow her to focus on her rehab.

In May 2012, she retired while healing from her second ankle-fusion surgery. One year later, that surgery was deemed a success, but she still has arthritis and pain in her ankle. And she has no padding between the bones in her foot and the ground -- just skin. The way she describes it, she is always healing and in rehab.

Today, Tracy does a lot of speaking for MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and she is a volunteer victim advocate. She hopes to be admitted to graduate school in the fall to pursue her master's degree in victim advocacy. She has found her second career.

She also goes to schools and talks with students about decision-making. She tells her story. "How it applies not just to drinking and driving, but any decision. That they don't live in a bubble. And it's a ripple effect," she says. "Any decision they make has consequences good and bad, and that those decisions affect people."

Tracy talks to the cadets at the police academy when they have their DWI training. She tells them how to react if something like this happens to them: Know your streets. Know how to let someone know where you are. And always have a survivor mindset.

She says that through all of this, she has become more empathetic. "I think that my character is stronger. I've become a better person. I take things more in stride. And my faith has gotten stronger ... that's just gone kind of above and beyond now through this experience," she says. "I don't know how you could go through something like this and not experience a change, whether it be good or bad. And I'm just fortunate, I guess, because the way I was raised, I looked at things in a positive manner, and so my change has been for the good in that way. And so that relationship with God has gotten a lot stronger. And so that's been a huge positive."

And, she says, the fact that she can still make a difference and help people is a really good thing. "To know I've been able to continue to do that and make positive difference in other ways ... has meant a lot," she says.


he driver of the Maserati that hit Tracy's patrol car was convicted of intoxication assault of a public servant with a deadly weapon -- the car being the deadly weapon -- and was sentenced to six years in prison. She will have to serve a minimum of three years before she is eligible for parole. All of her appeals have been denied.

Tracy says it comes down to making good decisions. "I'm not telling anybody not to drink. As long as you're of legal age, have a few drinks. I'm not telling people not to do that. That would be hypocritical," she says. "I drank when I was in college. I had a really good group of friends. We always planned ahead. We knew whose turn it was to drive."

She says it's better to spend a few dollars on a taxi than to kill someone or get killed because you've been drinking and driving.

"The girl that hit me, she had some physical consequences, and luckily she's going to be fine from that. But now she's in TDC, her family is without her for this time, so they're suffering consequences of that," she says. "Her friends were affected by it. This whole community was affected by it. My friends, my family. There's so many people who are affected by something like this."

Pain...and Surgeries

(Click to enlarge)
  • Tracy Sheets, seen here in 1998, worked with the College Station Police Department for 17 years
  • Tracy's patrol car after the crash
  • The Maserati that hit Tracy's patrol car. The vehicle was going more than 80 mph
  • Tracy's ankle after her initial surgery
  • Tracy's ankle after her first fusion surgery
  • Tracy's ankle after her most recent fusion surgery
  • Tracy had to start on parallel bars with her rehab and work her way up to crutches
  • Tracy Sheets, here with Gov. Rick Perry, was awarded the Star of Texas Award in 2012

Injuries Tracy Suffered

A broken hip caused by her left knee hitting the dashboard -- which shoved her femur through her left hip and broke it.
A broken pelvis.
All ribs on the right side of her body were fractured.
A shattered right ankle, broken in more places than she could count. "They said the only time they've seen that particular set of fractures is in airline crashes because of the sheer forces involved due to the speeds," she says.
An ACL injury in her left knee -- the ACL will now not function, so a knee replacement will be needed.
An injury to her right hand.
An abrasion to her forehead.

Chapter 4: The Ripple Effect


ne decision can change everything. We do not exist in a vacuum, and the choices we make impact those people around us. In many cases, the choices we make ripple outward and impact people who we don't know well, or that we may have never even met. And these people can be impacted in unimaginable ways.

Houston Sutton is at the center of one of these ripples. You see, in 2009 Houston was a sophomore at Texas A&M University, and in October of that year, he made a mistake. That's all it was, a mistake -- one that's made by countless others all over the country every day. But as Houston would come to find out, that one mistake would profoundly change his life, and the lives of many others.


ouston grew up in Dimmitt, Tex., a small town between Amarillo and Lubbock. He enrolled at Texas A&M because one of his brothers ran track there, and this gave him a chance to get out of the Panhandle and get out on his own a bit.

"I was living the dream basically," Houston says. "I was having the time of my life -- just your normal kid going through school."

In early October of 2009, Houston was preparing to go home for the funeral of a family friend, but couldn't leave until the morning of the funeral because he had tests that he couldn't miss. He was to fly out of Austin on the morning of Friday, Oct. 9.

His Thursday tests came and went. Houston says he did the typical college kid procrastinating and cramming before the test, staying up all night the night before.

"Go through the test, you get done about 7 p.m. that night, you're relieved. Go home, it's sunny, you know beautiful fall weather here in College Station," Houston says. "Buddies are having a cookout, they asked me if I wanted to go out that night. I'm like, 'You know I shouldn't, I've got a flight tomorrow at 7:45 a.m., I haven't slept.' But I'm in college. What can go wrong?"

Houston says he and his friends went to Northgate that evening. He drove to the bar, and drove home from the bar. Nothing happened. "I drank that night," he says. "Luckily I got home safe." By the time he got home it was after 2 a.m. and his friends were asking him if he was going to go sleep. "I said, 'No, if I do I'll never wake up in time,' " he says.

He left his house about 5 a.m. for the drive to Austin. After a quick stop at Whataburger, he hit the road and says he almost fell asleep at the wheel. "I rolled down my window and thought to myself, 'Okay, I've got this. I can make it.' "

He says the last thing he remembers is going through Caldwell, until suddenly he woke up and his dash was in his knees, his windshield was cracked and he saw a tree. He says he didn't realize the seriousness of the situation at that point.

In His Own Words

"I get asked a lot, 'Have you drank.' I'm only 25. I can't. I don't want to. I hate the smell. Because it all just reflects back on this one mistake and how it changed my life."
- Houston Sutton, on drinking since his DWI

"That's when it really hit me: I'm a criminal. I tried not to cry on the phone. But I couldn't help myself. You're trying to tell your dad that you're sorry."
- Houston Sutton, on getting his first visit from his father while serving jail time

"And it gave me an opportunity to speak as well. I understand when I go speak, 40 or 50 people are going to be there. But as long as it changes one person's mind, it's worth it. I hate it. I don't enjoy it. I feel miserable about it. I don't want to share my feelings. But as long as it helps one person, I'm willing to do it."
- Houston Sutton, on speaking for MADD and trying to create positive outcomes from his experience

Houston Sutton's truck
Houston Sutton's truck after his crash. Initially Houston just thought he had hit a tree.

"I start blowing it off at first, but then I start feeling the pain in my knees," Houston says. "I look down, the dash is completely into my knees. Panic kind of starts to set in at this point. I go to open my driver's side door, and I can't. It goes about half way. What did I get myself into. At this point, I just think I've hit a tree."

He screamed for help and a farmer ran up to ask him if he was okay. He says he's not sure of the timeframe, but what seemed like 10 seconds later, emergency workers were strapping him to a body board and were taking him to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin.

"They strap me down on the board. I'm like, 'I'm fine, I can walk, I'm sore.' They put me into the ambulance. They start asking me all these questions," he says. "I'm strapped to a board, I'm uncomfortable, I'm antsy, I'm claustrophobic. They put a blanket on me to keep me cool, and I'm wiggling. I don't want to be here. I've got a flight to catch. I don't know why they're taking this so seriously."

He says that workers continued asking him lots of questions after he reached the hospital, and he couldn't understand what was going on. "It's not a big deal. I'm just trying to blow it off. They're taking this too far," he says.

After taking him for X-rays, he was put on the phone with his oldest brother, who asked him, "Houston, were you drinking last night?"

"I said, 'Man, I had a little.' At the time I was embarrassed. I lied to him. I drank more than a little. But I wasn't going to tell him that. Because, of course, I just thought I'd hit a tree."

Then his brother said, "Well, Houston, you killed someone."


bout that time I just started crying," Houston says. "I didn't know how to react. One second I'm just your normal college kid. ... All of the sudden you're looking at taking someone's life."

Not long after the hospital staff calmed Houston down, DPS officials walked in. They told him that they were charging him with DWI and that they were going to draw his blood.

"He's taking your blood. Your life is falling apart, and there's nothing you can do about it," Houston says.

He was released from the hospital and taken to his middle brother's house in Round Rock. Having not slept in nearly two-and-a-half days, he fell asleep.

When he woke up, his Dad walked in. He says the sense of shame in disappointing his father, his role model, was overwhelming. "You just start crying again," he says. "You have to tell your dad that you killed someone. At this point I'm still in denial. Didn't see it, it didn't happen. Just your typical way to cope with things."

Houston flew home that weekend, and he says he lied to his family. "They asked if I drank a little. And I said, 'Yeah.' In reality I drank more than a little," he says. Houston's Blood Alcohol Level was was 0.04 when taken two hours after the crash. "It doesn't matter what it was. It could be 100 or 0.001. You're drinking and driving. It doesn't matter."

Houston Sutton's truck 2
Houston Sutton's truck after his crash. Houston was charged with Intoxicated Manslaughter after he was involved in a wreck that killed a man in 2009.

Houston was in a state of denial about the wreck. He says he went back to school, acting like nothing had happened. He says he still went out, and still drank. But all that changed once finals were over in December.

His middle brother was sitting on Houston's couch the morning after his last final. He threw Houston a piece of paper. "It had the accident report where it showed I hit somebody. And it kind of sort of set in," he says. "Then there's another page attached that said: 'The State of Texas vs. Houston Sutton -- Intoxicated Manslaughter.' My heart dropped. Like it happened all over again. Just replaying it in my head. That's two-to-20 years in prison.

"Again, I went from a normal college kid, small town guy, had the world at my fingertips. All of the sudden I'm looking at prison time. My life is crumbling and you have no control."


ver the course of the next year, Houston would have to make monthly visits to Giddings, Tex., for court hearings. And his situation created a strain not only for himself, but for his family, friends, and other people who knew him.

His father would make the eight-hour drives from Dimmitt for each of his hearings. He says the prosecutors investigated everything, and started talking to his friends and people who he talked to. He had lived in a fraternity house, and now lived with three friends in a separate house. His friends could not drink at home while he was there. It was the ripple effect. He said it was basically like they were dragging all of his friends along through the mud with him.

When plea bargain negotiations began, he says the state's first offerings on punishment were several years of prison time.

"It's a small courtroom," Houston says, describing the setting for his hearings. "Probably holds 30 people at most. And his [the victim's] family would sit in the back row. Of course the first time I didn't realize it. The second time, the lawyer kind of pointed it out. ... I could feel someone just staring at me with the utmost hate or anger. And I don't blame them. I couldn't look them in the eye. How could I? I took away someone's dad, son, husband -- you destroyed someone's life essentially and it's your fault. How can you look them in the eye."

On Dec. 13, 2011, Houston's attorneys and the prosecutors reached a plea deal. Houston would get 10 years probation and would have to serve some jail time, but the judge ruled that Houston would not miss his classes at Texas A&M. He would go through his spring semester and would then serve his jail time starting in May 2012. He would finish serving his sentence on the weekends during the following school year. "To this day I don't know why, or what he saw in me, that I wouldn't miss class. ... I'm very grateful to the judge for what he did, because he basically saved my life."

Before he started serving his sentence, Houston received a call from the prosecutor, letting him know that one of the victim's daughters wanted to talk to him before he went to jail.

"You talk about, you just took away someone's dad and they want to talk to you. What are they going to say to you?" Houston says. "They're going to tell you 'I hate your guts. You took away my Dad.' I'm fearing the worst. And out of respect I agreed to it."

He says it was an awkward situation, but the victim's daughter wanted to let him know that she forgave him. "One of the hardest things I've had to do was sit through that," he says. She portrayed her dad's life events leading up to the wreck and then explained her experience before the wreck, and the morning leading up to the wreck, and then everything she went through. "I told her that, 'I won't forgive myself for it -- I never will.' "

The daughter also handed him a letter from the victim's wife where she had written that she forgave him as well. "I don't know why. They shouldn't have to, but it made my life a lot easier to bear knowing that they forgave me," Houston says. "Now will I ever forgive myself? No, I won't. I can't. I can live my life and go forward, but I'll never forget that. You can't forgive yourself for doing something like that. Because you disappoint so many people."

Houston served 120 days in the Lee County jail and will be on probation until 2021.


ne decision can change everything. In one instant, Houston's hopes and plans for his life were completely turned upside-down. He graduated from Texas A&M, but finding a job proved difficult, as did finding housing. "You might as well take the A&M degree away. Because you're a felon," he says. "You're ripping away my education on every job that I applied to."

Luckily he had an opportunity back home that opened up. "But as soon as I moved home, I couldn't get an apartment. All the apartments you want to get into -- you're a felon. They don't care what kind of felon." He says those things were the hardest to cope with because it just struck him to the heart. "You're a convicted felon. You're the lowest of the low."

Houston knows that his mistake has cast a shadow not only on himself, but on his family and everyone else involved. "It has a ripple effect beyond anything you can imagine."

It cost him a future that he dreamed of. It cost his family both emotionally and financially. It cost the victim's family a father, a husband, a provider. And it cost a man his life.

"It's not just you and someone else getting involved in an accident," Houston says about drinking and driving. "It's your family, it's their family. It's their community. It's your friends. It affects more people than anyone can ever imagine. And that's what a lot of people don't understand.

"All it takes is that one time. Why chance it?"

Chapter 5: The Wake-Up Call


t's a common feeling among college students, the feeling that they are invincible. They are young, full of life, nothing can hurt them. They feel that they can do anything, and in many cases, they can. But this can be a very dangerous mentality, and no one knows that more than Jeff Schiefelbein.

Jeff is the youngest of four children -- all Aggies. He arrived at Texas A&M University in 1996, and immediately got involved in the college experience. He met lots of dynamic student leaders, interacted with faculty members, and, as many students do, embraced the party scene.

"Back in '96, I started at Texas A&M. And as a freshman, I was probably guilty of thinking I was invincible," Jeff says. "That included being pretty reckless with the way I spent my nights and weekends. I got progressively worse. The more times I got away with either drinking too much or drinking and driving, the more I thought I was invincible."

Jeff would soon find out that no one is bulletproof.


hen I started my sophomore year, this would've been the fall of 1997, I was probably at my worst stage I had ever been at for partying," Jeff says. "I think that I was grappling with a lot of personal problems and issues, some that were real and some that I was just emotional about. And I found that it was easy to get lost in alcohol."

Jeff says he had driven drunk dozens of times in his life. "The fact that somehow the next day I'd wake up and nothing was hurt, I wouldn't justify it, but it certainly didn't scare me. I had yet to have a personal encounter with someone whose life had been tragically altered."

"On October 23, 1997, I was driving through town on my way to Taco Cabana after 2 a.m. and was speeding down Texas Avenue." Jeff says. "I was intoxicated and pulled over. There in the parking lot of Taco Cabana, I actually was arrested for DWI. I can remember the police officer asking me, 'Something going on tonight?' And I said, 'Yes sir, I'm drunk and you should probably take me to jail.' It was one of those things where I knew I was guilty. It was time to face it."

"It was a gift from God," Jeff says. "I was in a moment where I got to be arrested rather than hurting myself or, worse, hurting or killing somebody else. It was a real blessing to end up in jail that night. I know a lot of people struggle to believe that, but looking at myself in the mirror, knowing I was a good kid who came from a good family, I was the youngest of four, and here I was in actual jail having done something that was terrible and it wasn't my first time."

Jeff went through the punishment phase of a DWI, and rather than trying to delay it, he immediately pleaded guilty at the first chance that he had. "Part of that was that I figured the sooner I started my punishment, the sooner that would end and I could get on with the next chapter of my life."

That first year of his punishment phase after having been arrested, Jeff focused on himself a lot, trying to determine what was it that caused him to party in that way or to think that partying was a good use of his time. "So a lot of that was facing inward," he says. "It was starting to play guitar, or work out, or read, or spend really quality time with friends and family and not be an idiot kid."

Part of the punishment is thousands of dollars in fines and fees, meetings, and not having a license for more than a year. On November 11, 1998, Jeff was required to go to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel. That was here in Bryan. A friend dropped him off because he didn't have a license. He says he was a little reluctant to go, knowing that he hadn't been part of any sort of an accident. But, like everything else, he went in and opened up his mind and fully participated.

In the meeting, a mother was speaking about the death of her daughter who had been hit when she was walking down the road after her car broke down. She had been hit by a drunk driver and killed. Jeff says it was a very powerful story, and she was a very amazing woman. The mother sent a picture of her daughter through the crowd. It came to Jeff and he stopped and held it. The picture looked just like a friend of his from high school. It looked like a lot of people he knew.

"I remember that moment was an epiphany moment," he says. "I call it a gift from God. I just said, 'I've got to do something about this. I've got to find a way that good kids like me quit making such a ridiculous mistake that is easily preventable.' "

As the program ended, Jeff went out and got back in the car. His friend asked him how the night had gone. "The first words out of my mouth was, 'I'm going to start the best designated driver program in the country, and I need your help. In fact, I need the help of a lot of our friends.'"

Student on telephone

What is CARPOOL?

CARPOOL is a free designated driver program started in 1999 on the Texas A&M campus. It is completely student run and operates Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. when Texas A&M classes are in session.

For more information, visit
If you need a ride, just call (979) 693-9905.
students in carpool car

The Six Key Principles of CARPOOL

It's free
It's student run
It's nonjudgmental
It's rewarding
It's comfortable
It's convenient

students scheduling the nightly routes
CARPOOL operates Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. when Texas A&M classes are in session.


rom that point forward, Jeff says he actually started to devalue his grades but increase the value of his education. He was a business management major, and so he started reading ahead in his textbooks to try to figure out how to create a nonprofit corporation? How do you do the finances? What is risk management really all about?

"It was more about the practical application and less about the schooling," Jeff says. "I selected a few key mentors in town. I started hearing other people's stories about how alcohol had affected them and how passionate people were about helping to prevent this unbiased killer that has hurt all of us or at least one removed, people that we know. I created this genesis team of amazing student leaders."

But they faced opposition everywhere. Jeff says that most people didn't believe a group of college kids could get together and come up with a legitimate program that took every foreseeable risk into account and built plans to reduce that risk, including contingency plans and emergency preparedness plans. "There were a lot of struggles in the one year that I worked on actually launching this program, everything from what vehicles would we drive, who owns them, where do you get them, how do you maintain them, to what would the relationship be with the university, with the local police departments, with local businesses," he says. "Would we have to pay them? People have to be paid. Volunteers, would this be part of a punishment?"

What they settled on was a program that is based on six key principles. Jeff says it works, and it works because people want to take care of other people. They want to use it when they're in need. They want to encourage other people in need to use it. And, the community's able to embrace it because of everything it stands for. Jeff went on to elaborate on the six key principles.

"I kept looking at all these programs throughout the U.S., including programs that had failed at Texas A&M, trying to figure out what was it about those that I or my friends would not have used or not have volunteered for. And by mistake, settled on these core principles that we asked the CARPOOL executives to never change. They're pretty simple, but when they're added together, it really works.

some of the founding members of CARPOOL
CARPOOL's first executive staff.

"The first is that it's free. We don't want students in need to ever have to have a certain amount of money. Your friend may drive home drunk, and you just don't want to get in the car and you're completely sober. You've committed no crime. We want you to be able to get a safe ride home even if somebody else makes a bad decision.

"It needs to be student run. I knew that my peers were more likely to jump in a car with a guy and a girl that looked just like them -- that they probably saw at a club before or in a student organization.

"It needed to be nonjudgmental. This wasn't about a religious belief. It wasn't about a belief on whether or not drinking was wrong or right or what you should do when you're underage or not. This was about a moment of need and delivering a service to take care of that need, not about trying to impart personal views.

"It's also rewarding, and that means it's rewarding for the members. They're part of a really fun environment. A lot of lifelong friendships and even marriages have come out of going to battle every night, where you have 20 cars driving all over town, and you're taking care of a very intense operation that is life saving and often very exhilarating and exhausting. It's also rewarding for the people taking the rides home, because people get to wake up the next day. I always say this, 'Their families may not even know CARPOOL exists, but CARPOOL is the reason why they still get to wake up and keep pursuing their dreams.' We made it rewarding for corporate sponsors and also for the city. Taking drunk drivers off the road and reducing the number of folks that are potential dangers is rewarding for everybody.

"The program's also comfortable. There's a male and a female in every car. Part of that's because you want to make sure that somebody getting in that car maybe has a higher level of comfort than maybe me and another guy that's tall and big like I am. But the same thing happens on our side. Our comfort level was increased. Because I didn't want to get perhaps a drunk female in the car who made a claim of some sort of sexual harassment against two guys. I wanted to balance that out to where everybody was comfortable, driver, navigator from CARPOOL, and passenger.

"The next is that the program's convenient, which means it's not a bus route. It doesn't drop you off and tell you to walk whatever how many blocks to your house. It's not on a certain system. This is a custom ride home. It picks you up where you are and takes you to where you're sleeping that night. It's not a drunk bus. It's not designed to take you to other bars, clubs, or parties. It's highly discouraged if anybody's ever caught doing that. It's a convenient ride home."

On the very first night that CARPOOL was active -- September 23, 1999 -- they gave 36 rides. The next weekend, they gave more than 100. And in less than one month, students from other colleges were calling to see if they could come study what Jeff and his team were doing. Within one year, a second program was launched at the University of Georgia. "It's really neat to see that the excitement and the spirit of giving that exists at A&M transcends cultures and geographic boundaries," Jeff says. "Because people love taking care of each other in a very meaningful way. That's what CARPOOL and the sister programs based on the CARPOOL model are delivering."

Today, CARPOOL is more than 15 years old, and has crossed the 230,000 ride mark. The statistics for rides given are now in the 100s per night.

CARPOOL is easy to find on the internet -- The organization is doing well, but it is expensive to run. Jeff describes it as a logistical nightmare to run. "CARPOOL is a 24/7 job for those that are involved. It's life changing for them to know that you have an impact on countless lives and to also gain that experience from being part of something where what you do really matters. It's huge. There's no internship that will ever teach somebody those skills."

And if you need a ride, just call (979) 693-9905. The program operates Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. when Texas A&M classes are in session. Outside of that, Jeff said he believes that voicemail will give you some options for cab companies. "It's as easy as dialing that number and telling them where you are and how many people. It's a free, safe, nonjudgmental ride to wherever you're going to bed that night."

CARPOOL spawned similar programs across the country.
CARPOOL was an immediate success and sparked sister programs at colleges across the nation. Within one year of CARPOOL's launch, the "Watchdawgs" program was started at the University of Georgia.


eff says there have been costs associated with his DWI. He's had job offers rescinded or that couldn't be made because of his record. But he says that, in his case, the cost came with great benefit. "I took a mistake and a bad situation and turned it into a chance to give back, and I took my weakest part of who I was and turned it into one of my greatest strengths."

Jeff says that has a young man, he always felt like he had to be the guy who was the life of the party, and the toughest, and the coolest, and the one who was front and center. That was part of where he got the feeling that, somebody else is the one who's going to end up getting hurt or, worse, hurting somebody else from a DWI.

"What I found in working with people in CARPOOL, both people who had made the mistake before, people who had hurt other people, or folks who had lost loved ones, is once you start making responsible decisions, it actually ends up being way cooler than the guy who's out there being an idiot and putting people in danger," he says. "It is not hard to make responsible decisions and to do it in a way that's cool and fun. If you know there's a night that you're going to have a few drinks, get a driver. Get a cab. It's very easy to take care of yourself and take care of others.

"I'll tell you what's really cool is waking up the next day and getting to go on with your life. I have a daughter, and I have another one on the way. I have a beautiful wife, and none of that would've been possible if I would've kept going down the path I was on. Because I would eventually either be in jail or be killed. I'll tell you what's really cool is having a family. That wasn't the first thing on my mind when I was 19 and making a pretty stupid mistake."

Chapter 6: The Message


n Nov. 22, 1991, the day after Mike Dean was killed by a drunk driver, his wife, Laura, got on a plane from Denver to Dallas with her 8-month-old daughter and a family friend who was accompanying her.

"On that airplane was when I really discovered what I had become the night before," Laura says. "And what I had become was a single mom in an instant. And a widow in an instant."

An instant.

In an instant, your life can be shattered. In an instant, your hopes and dreams can disappear. In an instant, your future can be completely turned upside down.

So it was with Laura Dean.

But amid tragedy, positive forces do emerge. And so it was with Laura.

"Many positive things have come from Mike's death," she says. She describes how she got involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to tell her story to others. "I wanted everyone to make better choices."

"It's not something that is ever an accident," Laura says when asked about people referring to alcohol-related crashes as accidents. "People choose to drink, and then they choose to drive a loaded weapon called an automobile."

Through MADD, Laura told her story. She worked at the state and national levels with MADD to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.

"The pinnacle that really, to me, was Mike's pat on my shoulder was when I was elected the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 2008," she says. "I was privileged to do that for three years, to go literally across the country, and some parts of the world, to spread the message. My hope is that something that I said made a difference. I know it did."

And what message does Laura Dean-Mooney continue to spread about the dangers of drinking and driving?

"Don't do it. It's as simple as that. There are too many options available for all of us," she says. "I remind people that for the price of their DWI, which can cost you up to $17,000 -- after hiring an attorney, paying fees and fines -- you could have taken a helicopter home that night. Wouldn't that have been a whole lot more fun."

"It's not worth killing a Mike Dean, or causing serious injury to yourself or anyone else, or being responsible for a young baby not having her daddy because of your selfishness to decide to drink and drive," she says.

The message is very simple. "Just don't do it."

After the Crash

(Click to enlarge)
  • The car that crashed into Mike Dean's vehicle
  • At combined speeds of 135 mph, head-on crashes are usually not survivable
  • The drunk driver who crashed into Mike Dean's car was also killed
  • Mike Dean's car after the accident again
  • Laura Dean-Mooney speaking about the dangers of drinking and driving at a U.S. Department of Transportation press conference in 2010
  • Laura Dean-Mooney telling her story on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and speaking about the dangers of drinking and driving in 2010

Want More Information?

You can find additional information about the dangers of drinking and driving, and more statistics on alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, from these organizations:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service: Watch UR BAC Alcohol Awareness Program
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration