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Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019 12:01 am

Prosecutor fails “A little girl lost”

Bruce Rushton’s meticulously researched and brilliantly written cover story, “A little girl lost,” Dec. 13, is truly a heartbreaking saga of the death of an innocent child as the result of the actions of an irresponsible, alcohol-imbibing former jailbird who, in his relatively short time on this earth, has now managed to be involved in separate incidents which have snuffed out two lives.

Jennifer Watson, the state’s attorney of Macoupin County, refused an interview request for Rushton’s story. However in a written response, Watson suggested that in spite of safety recommendations, parents regularly allow their children to drive ATVs without helmets or seat belts and at no time is this construed as criminal. Watson states the State must look at the facts rather than the results. Perhaps another opinion is relevant to this matter of public interest.

If it was only a lack of safety belts and helmets, Watson might have a point. Here the facts involve not only a lack of safety belts and helmets, but also: 1. disregarding a warning label never to carry more than one passenger, 2. placing children on unsecured crates in the back of the vehicle, 3. having passengers under 12 years of age, contrary to a warning label to never carry a passenger under 12 years of age, 4. proceeding on terrain that was so dangerous Donald Ruyle’s own mother told deputies she would not drive on that rutted terrain where the vehicle flipped because she is not “gutsy” enough to go there, 5. proceeding in the above manner during hours of darkness, 6. (if you believe he was not driving) letting an incapable minor operate the vehicle, 7. after the crash, instead of keeping Madyson Loftis immobilized on the ground for emergency personnel, picking up Madyson’s limp body, placing her in the ATV then proceeding in the ATV over this terrain back to his daddy’s house, and of course, (8) disregarding a warning label never to ride in the vehicle after using alcohol.

According to the Illinois statute: “A person commits endangering the life or health of a child when he or she knowingly: 1. causes or permits the life or health of a child under the age of 18 to be endangered or 2. causes or permits a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child’s life or health.” If a violation of this statue results in the death of a child, it is a Class 3 felony.

If Ms. Watson, the state’s attorney, does not believe Madyson was placed in circumstances that endangered her life or health, perhaps she should have put more weight on the experience and observations of Mr. Ruyle’s own mother, who apparently will not ride in the ATV in the area in question because it is too dangerous, apparently even if all other rules of ATV operation are followed, including not drinking alcohol.

Perhaps equally perplexing is the fact that Ms. Watson has apparently not been hesitant to file child endangerment complaints against others in the past.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Ms. Watson filed a child endangerment complaint in Macoupin County (case # 2017-CM-295) because an unrestrained child was allegedly in a car with an open gas can. No injuries of any kind were even alleged to have occurred to the child in this complaint.

On Oct. 6, 2015, Ms. Watson filed a child endangerment complaint in Macoupin County (case # 2015-CM-470) because a child was allegedly under the sole supervision of a person who was alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol. The child was not alleged to have even been in a vehicle at the time and no injury was alleged to have occurred in the complaint,

On June 12, 2015, Ms. Watson filed a child endangerment complaint in Macoupin County (case # 2015-CF-100) because a child was in a vehicle while the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. No injuries of any kind were even alleged to have occurred to the child in this complaint.

Indeed the entire argument that criminal charges are not warranted because parents sometimes allow their children to drive ATVs without helmets or seat belts not only ignores the totality of the circumstances in this case, but is based upon a “some other people do it so it is not a crime” mentality.

Hopefully, Ms. Watson will reconsider her opinion. If not, the next time you hear of someone getting a ticket while speeding on I-55 going through Macoupin County perhaps Ms. Watson can be convinced to dismiss the ticket because, after all, some other people engage in speeding on I-55. Good luck with that defense.

Bruce Beeman, a Springfield attorney, represents the Loftis family in legal proceedings following the death of Madyson Loftis.

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