Choice alters life

A 24-year-old Ravenna man facing charges in a crash that killed a Grand Haven man is "devastated' about what happened, according to his attorney, Terry Nolan.
Becky Vargo
Jun 19, 2012

 

Steven Paul Spencer will be arraigned June 29 in Muskegon County District Court on a charge of operating while intoxicated, causing death, Nolan said. If convicted, Spencer could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison and pay a fine in the range of $2,500 to $10,000.

Spencer was originally to be arraigned on the charge Monday morning, but bonded out of jail and the arraignment was set for a later date, Nolan said. Bond was set at $25,000.

John Shumaker, 37, was killed in the head-on collision Saturday afternoon, just a few miles west of Ravenna. Shumaker and his 10-year-old daughter, Madison, were going home from a softball game in Conklin at the time of the 4:18 p.m. crash.

Madison escaped serious injury. Spencer suffered minor injuries.

Police said Spencer was eastbound in his pickup truck on Heights-Ravenna Road, attempted to pass a slow-moving vehicle near Ensley Street, lost control of his truck on the wet road and struck the Shumaker car head-on.

Spencer admitted to police he had smoked marijuana about five hours before the crash, Nolan said. But “he won’t show the presence of any alcohol in his blood,” the attorney added.

Spencer’s good attitude and honesty were attributes that brothers Mike and Jeffrey Jawor said convinced them that he was a good hire for their blueberry business outside of Ravenna.

“Steve started working here in April,” Mike Jawor said. “He’s a nice kid and everything. There were no problems. He seemed to catch on to things pretty fast.”

Spencer drove tractors and sprayed the blueberries, and his work ethic was good, Jeffrey Jawor said.

“He’s energetic about his job,” Jeffrey Jawor said. “He seemed to like coming here.”

Mike Jawor said Spencer told him upfront that he had a couple of convictions for being a minor in possession of alcohol. But he said Spencer told him, “I kind of grew out of that kind of stuff.”

Spencer had one minor in possession charge in Ottawa County in 2005 and one in Muskegon County in 2008, court records show.

The Jawor brothers said Spencer worked hard to learn the job at their business, and that his job was on hold until the facts of the crash were revealed. If it is determined that he was driving under the influence — whether it is alcohol or drugs — he would likely lose his job, the Jawors said.

The Jawors expressed their condolences to everyone involved.

“It’s a tragedy,” Jeffrey said. “We feel bad for the people on both sides of it.”

Just down the street from the Spencer home, Susan Gilbert, a secretary at the United Methodist Church of Ravenna, said a lot of people in town were praying for Steven and his family.

“It’s so very sad … that one instance has changed the lives of two families now,” she said. “You just pray that they can come through this.”

Gilbert said her nephew was a friend of Spencer's, and they were more likely to go to someone’s house and work on cars than go to a party or a bar.

“People have a lot of good to say about (Steven),” she said. “I know his brother well — just the kind of kids they are and how they were raised.

“No matter what the court does to you, you live with it the rest of your life,” Gilbert added. “Even jail doesn’t punish you as much as you punish yourself."

Members of Spencer’s family were approached. Although they declined to comment, they did supply a photo of their son taken the previous year. They referred any questions to their attorney.

 

Comments

ohwell

If convicted??? Has already admitted to using illegal drugs and driving, that should be enough to throw him prison. Let's not waste tax payers money, throw him in jail now and throw away the key. Pretty much a black and white case with his admission of using an illegal substance and then driving.

mombobj

Anyone who at 4 o'clock in the afternoon is drunk or high and gets on the road shouldn't get any
sympathy. He took a wife's best friend and sole mate and their two little girls will never see their
dad again. That family was totally torn apart. You at least will have a life when you get out of
jail. Hopefully you will do alot of thinking while sitting in jail of what you did to this family. I have a
hard time feeling sorry for you even if you are a nice kid but what you did to this family at 4 in the
afternoon, because you wanted to get a little high, is very selfish and I can't forgive that. May God
bless the Shumaker Family and be with them through this trying time.

my2cents

Wow...what happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? May God bless BOTH famlies of this tragedy.

ohwell

No need for any kind of trial, he already admitted guilt. Enough to lock him up for a long time, and 15 years is not nearly long enough. Life without the chance for parole sounds good to me.

Wilson Road

I understand rage and grief, and even calls for justice. I also agree that John Shumaker didn't "deserve to die", but what useful purpose would giving Steven Spencer life without parole serve? It would not restore Mr. Shumaker to his family, nor will it make society at large a better place to live. Quite frankly, Steven Spencer will already be serving a life sentence. He will have to live every day of the rest of his life knowing that his lapse of judgement resulted in the death of a really great guy.

I would challenge those who would like to see this young man locked away for the rest of his life, to take a few minutes and think about their own driving history. Can you honestly say that you have never made one single mistake? Never made one error in judgement? Never driven over the speed limit, or accidentally blown through a red light or a stop sign, never allowed yourself to be distracted while driving, never driven while too tired? Never allowed your car to be out of control for even a moment, even when driving on ice or snow. Never accidentally crossed the center line, or driven off onto the shoulder of the road? Any mistake, however minor, under the right circumstances could make you responsible for a death or injury. "There but for the Grace of God, go I". Don't believe in God? Okay, there but for my great good fortune go I.

The idea that "marijuana" was a contributing factor reinforces the "It could never happen to me." attitude that we have, but how is it that the deputy responding to the accident also lost control of his vehicle, resulting in injuries to himself? The very nature of his job requires him to be highly trained to drive in all weather conditions. I can only assume he was not under the influence of any intoxicants or mind altering substances, yet he also had an accident. Had his accident resulted in a death, should we lock him away for life?

ohwell

I agree he might suffer for a lifetime. Yes I admit I have driven how you said at times. Difference is I didn't kill anyone, after smoking pot (which I have never done anyway). Letting him walk free will not teach him (or anyone else) anything. It will only teach them that they can be negligent and walk free. If I was negligent for any reason while driving and killed an innocent person, I would totally expect to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This wasn't just an accident, the person admitted to smoking an illegal substance prior to driving. Pretty black and white when it comes to guilt. I say let him suffer in jail for life, he took a man's life, make him pay.

DKS523

Innocence has nothing to do with this, whether he smoked pot or not. He still tried to pass another vehicle.. and slammed into the vehicle in the other lane.

DKS523

The driver who killed him... has to live a lifetime knowing that his actions caused death.. and that in the final seconds.. the person he killed...gave his life for his daughter. I would never want to be in his situation. No matter what jail/prison time he serves.. the guilt he feels will be so much more than that. It will haunt him until he dies.

 

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