Man freed after 120 days in death of two children

A drunk driver from Licking who killed two children is free after serving 120 days in prison, according to court documents.

Justin Bradshaw, 26, was released last week after an order from Maries County Associate Circuit Court Judge John Clayton.

“This ruling completely flattened and brought us to our knees,” wrote the family of the two children in statement released Tuesday. “What is it going to take to convince the legal system to get the message out that drinking and driving can result in horrific and extremely violent crashes that can kill themselves and innocent victims?”

Clayton, hearing the case on a change of venue from Texas County, accepted an August 2008 guilty plea related to the deaths of Ryan M. Jones, 15, who died shortly after he was freed from the December 2006 wreckage on North U.S. 63 at Licking, and Amanda Strom, 8, who died the following day in a Springfield hospital. Four others were injured in the crash, and each brought an assault charge by Texas County Prosecutor Michael Anderson against Bradshaw.

According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol reconstruction report, Bradshaw was the driver of southbound vehicle that crossed a centerline and struck a car driven by Matthew M. Strom, 34, of Edgar Springs, head-on. Strom and three other children – Licking residents Blythe and LaShae Brotherton, both 11 at the time and siblings to Ryan Jones, and his son, Matthew Jr., 7, were seriously injured in the crash. The Brotherton children and Ryan Jones have the same mother.

Still hospitalized in February with a broken hip and pelvis, Bradshaw told troopers at his hospital bed that he didn’t remember the accident, but recalled leaving an Edgar Springs home before the crash, according to a report. A lab report taken six hours after the crash showed Bradshaw had a blood-alcohol of .123 percent, which is nearly twice the legal limit.__

By the following May, Bradshaw was ordered to trial on the six felony counts. In August 2008, after a series of delays and a change of venue to Phelps

County, Bradshaw entered the guilty pleas to six felonies.

Clayton maintained control over the case using a state statute that allowed him to review Bradshaw’s case after he served 120 days. On Jan. 29, Clayton signed an order that released Bradshaw from a Fulton prison and placed him on supervised probation for five years. He was freed last week.

“Judges must consider many factors in reaching decisions, not just victims, special interest groups and political expediency,” wrote Clayton in his order. “Is there prison space? How will the decision effect (sic) future behavior? How is the tax dollar best spent? Is it necessary to spend $15,000 per year to keep someone in prison? Is there a way to diminish any of the harm to the victims? Can an offender be placed on probation or parole and there still be a reasonable expectation that the public will not suffer more harm? Will retribution actually help anyone and what is the cost to the public?

“This court, after much thought and soul searching, has arrived at the conclusion that placing Justin Bradshaw on probation with special conditions will best serve the people of this state.”

Under the order, Bradshaw must:

-Not consume or possess any intoxicants or drugs not prescribed for him. He also can not enter an establishment whose primary business is the sale of alcohol.

-Must submit to drug testing with or without probable cause. He must be tested at his expense not less than monthly.

-Pay $300 to the Texas County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund within 180 days from the date of the order.

-Pay $300 monthly in restitution to the county prosecutor for counseling services that can not be obtained from any other source to those in the crash, Matthew Strom Sr., Matthew Strom Jr., Blythe Brotherton, Lashae Brotherton and the mother, father and siblings of Amanda Strom and Ryan Jones. Funds not used for counseling can be used to pay for scar reduction or other remedial treatment of injuries not paid by any source.

Any funds remaining in the account are to be divided equally to pay any unpaid funeral expenses and monuments for the children.

The case has garnered media attention and a letter writing campaign to the judge after it was learned that Bradshaw might just spend 120 days in prison. Relatives of the victims said they can’t understand why Bradshaw, a repeat offender, would spend only four months in jail.

“We know there is absolutely nothing that can change the events or outcome of the day, undo the harm and pain or bring back our kids,” the family said in its statement. “That’s not what we went to court for. We went to court to see justice prevail for Ryan and Amanda. We went to court believing the scales of justice would rule more than 120 days for a convicted repeat offender who inflicted the ‘mayhem’ onto two families.”

Records show that Bradshaw entered a guilty plea in 2004 to a DWI case in Shannon County and was ordered to pay a $300 fine. Later, he failed to appear for a court hearing related to not paying the fine and a warrant was issued for his arrest and later recalled in March 2005, according to court documents.

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