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In Living

Jennifer Bukosky was a daughter, mother, friend and teacher who was loved by many people.

In Living

Bukosky and her daughter, Courtney, circa 2007.

Victims' family react to sentencing of intoxicated driver


Yesterday, former doctor Mark Benson was sentenced to 30 years in prison for driving under the influence and killing 39-year-old Jennifer Bukosky, her 10-year-old daughter, Courtney Bella, and her unborn daughter, Sophie. She left behind her husband, Michael, and a son, 13-year-old Zachary.

During the time of the crash, Benson was driving -- despite a revoked license -- and had taken pain killers and anti-anxiety medication that impaired his driving abilities. His vehicle crashed into Bukosky's car, which was stopped at an Oconomowoc intersection on April 25, 2008.

Benson pleaded no contest to three charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle and two counts of causing injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. Judge J. Mac Davis sentenced Benson to 30 years in prison, but could have given him 50 years or more.

Two days prior to the 2008 crash, Benson was convicted of his third drunk driving offense and lost his license. For some of Bukosky's family members, including her father, Paul Jenkins, the post-tragedy focus is to change Wisconsin's OWI laws to keep repeat offenders off the streets.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunk driving in the country. Last year, 234 people died in alcohol-related crashes and 4,000 people were injured. Forty percent of the fatal crashes in 2008 were due to alcohol.

The family of Jennifer Bukosky urges people to visit its Web site and sign a petition to make the OWI laws more rigid in Wisconsin.

"No parent is supposed to see their child die before them," says Jenkins.

Just a few hours after Benson's sentencing, OnMilwaukee.com spoke with Jenkins.

OnMilwaukee.com: How do you and your wife feel about the sentence?

Paul Jenkins: Judy and I feel like, given everything, it was a fair sentence. We wanted to see him off the street for many, many years, and the 30-year sentence means he will be off the street until he is a very old man.

OMC: Did you feel Benson was remorseful?

PJ: Judy and I have been to every hearing except one, and we did not feel that Benson expressed remorse. He said some words in court -- and he wrote the letter -- but I find the timing of it suspicious and at best self-serving. Only (Benson) knows if his words are truly remorseful, but I have my doubts.

OMC: Do you and Judy feel any relief?

PJ: To quote Judy, the sentencing closes a chapter of this phase of our lives. But it's just one chapter. We will work now, as hard as we can, to change the OWI laws that are so regrettably lacking. Currently, Wisconsin has a cowardly approach to the OWI problem in this state ... The state now needs leaders, not politicians to make Wisconsin safe.

OMC: How is Jennifer's husband, Michael, and her son, Zachary, doing?

PJ: Michael is beside himself with grief. He lost his wife, a stepdaughter whom he loved very much and his unborn daughter. This has been extremely difficult for Zach, too. This is something no 13-year-old boy should have to endure. It's very difficult, but he's trying.

OMC: How are you and Judy?

PJ: It's the old "one day at a time" for us. Thankfully, people have been so very supportive. We've become very close with the Gibbs (family friend Debbie Gibbs was in Bukosky's car but survived the crash) and they have lended us a shoulder to cry on when it's time to cry ... It's very difficult to see Judy in pain. No parent is supposed to see their child die before them, and so tragically and suddenly.

OMC: Yesterday, Judy said she was now able to "move forward." What about professionally?

PJ: Judy is a psychotherapist who specializes in working with children who have suffered a loss, so, no, she is not able to go back to work because, obviously, it would cause so much emotion.

OMC: What now, Paul?

PJ: We do not want people to focus on our grief. Instead, we ask that they help to get legislation in place that toughens up Wisconsin's OWI laws. We have a petition on our Web site that, literally, can send a letter with the click of a mouse.

Please, call or write your legislators. They have all of the power. We need to make a first OWI offense a crime, have sobriety check points -- and more -- so that we can ensure this state is safe for all drivers.


Talkbacks

mambo | Aug. 16, 2009 at 10:45 a.m. (report)

Benson most certainly was intoxicated. Intoxication is the state of being affected by one or more psychoactive drugs. In addition, one can even become intoxicated by water or food. So choose whichever word you feel appropriate to describe his condition on that day. It's the word to describe Benson, himself, that's difficult. There are so many from which to choose. I think murderer is most accurate. Anyone who consistently drives while impaired, shows intent in my book and he should stay where he is for the rest of his life.

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taylerbaby | Aug. 13, 2009 at 3:17 p.m. (report)

Looking for accuracy? Replace "intoxicated" with "waste of oxygen with no regard for human life." Mark Benson's repeat offenses should have put in him jail years ago. We have to get serious about drunk and drugged driving in Wisconsin before more lives are taken.

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curlyboy1978 | Aug. 13, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. (report)

wfbdef - thank you! I thought I was the only one who noticed this. Onmilwaukee.com is guitly too..the driver was NOT DRUNK he was on meds. But apparently it's the same thing...I hope the family affected can now put this tragedy behind them. What an idiot...

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wfbdef | Aug. 12, 2009 at 9:15 p.m. (report)

This title is terribly misleading. The news coverage of this story has been completely misleading as well. Benson was not drunk. He was on prescription medication. I'm not suggesting it's ok or even not as bad as alcohol. But give the appropriate information.

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