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.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.