Halen Thompson sits at her grandmother’s picnic table drawing a picture of her family, one that includes her mom as an angel.
The 9-year-old girl and her brother, Jeremiah “Junior” Thompson, 10, lost their mom, Elizabeth Shelton, a little over a year ago when she was killed in a one-vehicle crash in Wyandot County.
Shelton was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by Timothy N. Tebbe, on Oct. 12, 2014, hours after she stood in as the maid of honor in her friend’s wedding. The crash also took the life of the groom, Andrew M. Bloomfield, and injured the bride, Ruth Driskill Bloomfield.
Tebbe pleaded guilty in September 2015 to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault, in an agreement with prosecutors. After a pre-sentence investigation, Judge Kathleen A. Aubry sentenced Tebbe to eight years in prison.
“Speed and alcohol were definitely factors in the crash,” Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel has said.
Shelton’s mom, Pearl Forker, said her daughter would not have ridden in the vehicle with Tebbe driving, knowing he had been drinking.
“She had been up all night the night before helping Ruth prepare for the wedding. I feel like she took a cat nap while Ruth was driving to Tim’s house and did not know Tim insisted on driving back to the wedding reception,” Forker said.
Forker said the death of their mother has left her grandchildren struggling daily.
“Junior passed his classes in school, but struggled a lot. He has a lot of anger and is in counseling, we all are, to come to grips with Beth’s death,” said Forker as her grandson swung on a tire swing at her home near Nevada.
Forker said she is doing her best to raise her grandchildren.
“I want to do everything I can for them and in the way Beth would have wanted me to,” Forker said.
Forker said she has not fully forgiven Tebbe, even though he has apologized to her for his actions on that fateful day.
“He killed two people and should have received a longer prison sentence. My daughter and I shared the same birthday. She was my mini-me, and now, nothing will ever be the same because of Tim’s choices that day. It ruined his life and the lives of the others. My grandchildren are without a mom and nothing can replace her or bring her back,” Forker said. “Tim also has children, and so does Ruth, so the crash has also affected them.”
According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), drunk driving fatalities totaled 30.8 percent of the total traffic deaths in Ohio in 2013. There were 7,034 crash-related injuries that were alcohol related.
Forker said she is attending college in the criminal justice program.
“I want to make a difference in people’s lives, especially young people,” Forker said.
Halen and Junior agree that they will keep their mom’s memory alive.
“I talk to her every day. She is our angel that watches over us, all the time,” said Halen, as she looked towards the sky with her brother by her side.
Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras