“Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law“1 requires a sentencing court to order a defendant who has been convicted of vehicular homicide due to intoxication, and in which the victim of the offense was the parent of a minor child, to pay restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victim’s children until each child reaches 18 years of age and has graduated from high school.
Cecilia Williams , grandmother of, Bentley Williams, 5, and Mason Williams, 3, is raising her grandchildren after their parents were killed April 13, 2021, in a drunk-driving accident in Missouri.
Since her family members’ deaths, Williams has worked to get legislation called Bentley’s Law passed in Tennessee and several other states, including attempts in Missouri, that requires those convicted of driving while intoxicated to pay compensation to families affected by a drunk-driving death.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill on May 25, 2022.
Along with Tennessee, Bentley’s Law has also been introduced in Missouri, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma. Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Kansas, Arkansas, Delaware, Wisconsin, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Texas and Utah have stated plans to introduce similar laws during 2023 sessions.
David G. Thurby, 26, of Fenton, TN was charged and convicted of three counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fatal accident in Byrnes Mill, Missouri.
After the fatal accident on April 13, 2021, Thurby was arrested and told a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper that before the crash, he had seven shots of Crown and water, and a preliminary breath test showed Thurby’s blood-alcohol content was .192 percent, more than twice the legal limit, according to the probable-cause statement in the case.
A jury found Thurby guilty following a trial in front of Jefferson County Circuit Judge Victor Melenbrink.
In March, Judge Melenbrink sentenced Thurby to four years in prison on each of the three counts. Two of the counts are to be served consecutively with the other to be served concurrently, meaning Thurby is to serve eight years in prison.
Williams has set up a Facebook group called “Bentley’s Law” to share updates about the law’s progress in each state.
Matthew Thompson is Child Support lawyer in Mississippi and supports a law such as this in Mississippi.
- The law is named after children whose parents were killed in crashes caused by drunk drivers.