Parents Push For New Laws After Daughter Killed By Drunk Driver

September 30, 2013
By Chuck Strickler

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Annie Rooney was picking up a friend’s bike when her life was cut short on Independence Day along a stretch of U.S Route 50 west of Chillicothe.

It’s less than three miles from Jerry’s Pizza West, the restaurant that was recently cited by state investigators.

The business is accused of serving alcohol to the alleged drunk driver who struck and killed Rooney.

Now, almost three months after the crash, Rooney’s family is on a mission to prevent tragedies like this in the future…

“It was the worst – the worst thing that’s ever happened to us,” said Rick Rooney, Annie’s father, as he sat next to wife, Carole, on the patio of their Chillicothe home.
Rick says the night of July fourth will be forever etched in their minds, a nightmare that never goes away.

“Two state patrolmen came to the door and told us about the accident,” Rick said.
The head-on crash happened along a two-lane stretch of U.S. Route 50, less than two miles from the Rooney’s home.

A memorial cross honoring Annie now stands at the spot of the crash, near the visible scars in the pavement – and the scars in her parents’ hearts…
“We’re all in a state of shock, and it took a while for the idea that another human being had caused this,” Rick added.

Charges are still pending against the female driver, but a state police report alleges the driver had a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit.
And members of the Department of Public Safety’s Ohio Investigative unit have now cited Jerry’s for allegedly selling alcohol to the driver.

The Rooneys say their daughter had moved from Montana, worked briefly with the Ross County Prosecutor’s office and was setting up her law practice in Chillicothe.
They say since her death, love and support has poured in from across the country from Annie’s friends, who share story after story with them.

The Rooneys say this gives them comfort as they continue to grieve.

They say they want justice for those responsible for their daughter’s death, but they also want to prevent future tragedies.

“Rick and I now belong to a club nobody wants to join, “Carole said.  “I don’t want anybody else in this club, who’s lost a child – nobody should ever have to be in this position.”

And that’s why they are working to pass state legislation to require an interlock ignition device on all vehicles of DUI offenders.  Similar laws have passed in almost two dozen states.  The devices prevent the car engine from starting if the driver fails a breathalyzer test in the car.

“In Ohio, we want to make it Annie’s law,” Rick said.

“The more work we can do to pass this law and make people aware, the better off we’re all going to be,” added Carole. “We don’t want anybody to ever go through this.”

Investigators tell 10TV the restaurant’s case now goes before the state liquor control commission, but a decision may not come until next year.

Possible penalties include a fine, suspension or revocation of its liquor permit.
10TV reached out to the owner of Jerry’s but did not get a call back for comment.

The Department of Public Safety routinely does what it calls ‘trace-back’ investigations, looking at the source of alcohol in traffic crashes.

The state agency says it has investigated nearly 80 cases so far this year.

As of September 3rd, the agency says three of those cases ended up with citations, nine with arrests, and four with citations and an arrest.

Meantime, the Rooney family says it is actively pursuing a sponsor for Annie’s law.

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