Mija Stockman Law
In 2015, Governor Sam Brownback signed into law House Bill 2055. One section of the law created tougher sentencing for drunk drivers that cause bodily harm to others.
The law, known as Mija Stockman’s Law, was named after Lindsborg teacher Mija Stockman, who was severely injured in a car accident in December 2013. It increased the sentencing range for aggravated battery while driving under the influence to 38 to 172 months. In addition, those convicted of aggravated battery DUI are now ineligible for parole.
Heather Cash and her mother Candace Lampe, both critically injured in a head-on crash south of Great Bend in 2015, testified Friday in Barton County District Court, describing the extent of their injuries. Lafe Kern, the driver of the other vehicle, has been charged with four counts of aggravated battery while driving under the influence of drugs.
On Feb. 19, 2015, Eagle Med airlifted all three to Wichita from Great Bend Regional Hospital with serious injuries. Kern was a 26-year-old St. John resident. Cash, 29, had driven from her home in Pratt with mother, her 3-year-old son and her infant daughter.
After the crash, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir reported that the collision occurred at 10:17 a.m. on U.S. 281, 2 miles south of Great Bend near Great Bend Farm Equipment (now BTI).
“All three of the adult front-seat passengers in both vehicles had to be extracted with the jaws of life,” Bellendir said.
The initial investigation showed the Ford Explorer driven by Kern crossed left of center, nearly striking a northbound vehicle that was able to avoid a collision. Cash was also driving north, in a Chevrolet Tahoe that struck the Explorer head-on.
Law enforcement continued to investigate what caused the Kern vehicle to cross the center line and in August of 2016 he was charged with four counts of aggravated battery while DUI (a level 5 person felony), one for each passenger in the Tahoe. He was also charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a Class B misdemeanor, with the complaint alleging a drug or combination of drugs rendered him incapable of safely operating a vehicle. Finally, he was charged with two traffic infractions for driving left of center. He was booked into the county jail and released on a $20,000 surety bond.
Preliminary hearing begins
At Kern’s preliminary hearing on Friday, defense attorney Michael S. Holland II said the state is alleging Kern was “intoxicated by drugs,” but the Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab report didn’t provide enough information.
“We had an order to produce the actual test and the levels,” Holland said, adding the defense hinges on that information.
Witnesses were prepared to testify but Holland objected because the defense still had not received the KBI toxicology report and the toxicologist who did the report failed to appear in court Friday, even though Holland had sent her a summons.
There was confusion because Assistant County Attorney Douglas Matthews had also issued the toxicologist a summons but later told her she didn’t need to be there because the KBI had been given a court order to provide the full report before the hearing.
“Why they haven’t provided it for me yet I don’t know,” Matthews said. “I told her she didn’t need to be here because we had the results of the test,” he said. “I didn’t know that Mr. Holland had (also) subpoenaed her.”
Magistrate Judge Richard E. Burgess Jr. said the case could not be concluded on Friday and will have to be rescheduled.
“The defense has a position the court supports,” Burgess said. “I would not be making a proper decision if I allowed this preliminary hearing to continue.”
The judge did allow Cash and Lampe to testify, but only to the extent of their injuries.
Cash testified that her son suffered a minor concussion and abrasions from his seat belt in the collision. Her 9-month-old daughter was not injured.
“I had a broken sternum, ulna and mirotella on my knee. I still have nerve and tendon damage on my right knee,” she said. She was at Via Christi - St. Francis for about a week and spent another week in Wichita for rehabilitation.
Matthews asked her to describe any lingering effects.
“My knee mostly. I have a hard time kneeling or putting any pressure on it. I still — mentally I still deal with it on a daily basis,” she said. “I still try to cope with what my mother deals with on a daily basis.”
“I broke 19 bones,” Lampe said. She has plates in her clavicle, arm, leg and wrist, and she suffered a stroke. After leaving the intensive care unit at the hospital she spent three months in rehabilitation. Today, “my cognitive ability isn’t 100 percent,” she said. She has pain in her left leg, her left hand has not worked well as a result of the stroke and she is not steady on her feet, all conditions that came after the crash, she testified.