May 3, 2014. Four motorcyclists were travelling inbound from Palmer toward Wasilla and Anchorage. A driver was waiting to make a left-hand turn from the outbound lane of traffic. His vehicle was hit from behind by Dakota J. Letherman, 18, of Palmer, pushing him into the lane occupied by the four motorcyclists. Three of the motorcyclists were killed. A husband and wife, Jim and Sabrina Carlyle, and Elaine Loew, the wife of the fourth rider who went down but escaped serious injuries.
I just learned the following on May 19, more than a year since this tragic collision, from an article in the Mat-su Valley Frontiersman:
According to the State of Alaska District Attorney in Palmer, Roman Kalytiak, no charges would be filed against Letherman. Why, I ask?
The Alaska State Troopers said the investigation was completed. Kalytiak said Assistant District Attorney Shawn Traini reviewed the investigation and declined to prosecute. Why, I ask?
Kalytiak said there were no drugs or alcohol involved, and no evidence of phone use at the time. He said further that Palmer grand juries have a history of declining to indict for traffic violations and/or inattentiveness resulting in death. Why, I ask? It would have been nice if the Grand Jury had at least been given the opportunity to speak for themselves.
These people were beloved husband, wives, mothers, father, grandparents, siblings. They were contributing members of their communities. Yet, their lives were snuffed out by Letherman’s inattentive and reckless driving, and he wasn’t even issued a ticket for rear-ending another vehicle – which I thought was an automatic ticket? Why, I ask?
The family and friends left behind have suffered and will continue to suffer heart-breaking grief. And what about the price paid by the families through no fault of the victims, including insurance rates, damages, loss of love and friendship. Does anyone even care? I'm sick of people who do not take responsibility, who are not held accountable.
I believe there is something extremely flawed in the Alaska justice system. I think there is something underhanded in the way this has been handled. I think their decision not to prosecute sends a huge message to motorcyclists that our lives are inconsequential.
I can’t help but feel that if it were one of the Palmer residents, or Alaska State Troopers, or Palmer Prosecutors or Assistant Prosecutors, whose husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent or sibling had been killed in this homicide, the decision regarding prosecution would have been entirely different.
The way I see it, if you’re looking to commit murder with a deadly weapon (vehicle), by all means to go Alaska is the place to do it, and this is the way. As long as you aren’t driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or marijuana, or talking or texting on your cell phone, you can use your vehicle to kill whoever you want without fear of prosecution. According to Palmer’s own prosecutorial staff, their grand jury certainly won’t indict you. In fact, you probably won’t even get a ticket, have anything on your driving record or even get an increase in your vehicle insurance premium. Yep, Palmer, Alaska … known for its License to Kill.