Victim's parents upset felony charges dropped against Estes Park man in fatal Grand County crash

Misdemeanor DUI, child abuse charges remain

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. - The Grand County District Attorney's decision to drop all of the felony charges against a man accused of driving drunk and hitting a family leaving a Fourth of July fireworks show last year has angered the parents of a man who died.  

Greg Westley, 50, of Estes Park, was killed. His wife, Debbie Westley, 49, was flown by helicopter to Denver Health Medical Center with serious injuries. Three children were also flown to Denver hospitals. The Westley's five other children were not hurt.

Last month, 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey announced that he will move to dismiss all of the felony charges against driver Lucas Ackerman.

Read the letter by the DA's office: http://ch7ne.ws/1vpelV0

Barkey said his office will still prosecute Ackerman on three remaining counts -- driving under the influence and two counts of misdemeanor child abuse, for the defendant's children who were in the vehicle with him.
    
"The most offensive one, vehicular homicide, is ignored.  It never happened.  Yet it did.  We no longer have that son," said Bill Westley.

In an interview with 7NEWS, Barkey said evidence can't prove Ackerman's intoxication caused the crash.

"If I'd been driving, you'd driving, that night and sober, we couldn't have stopped, if this family had stepped out in front of us,” said Barkey.

An argument this father and some court observers can't accept.

“At the end of the day as the district attorney, the responsibility falls on my shoulders to do what is just and right." said Barkey.

The crash happened about three miles south of the town of Grand Lake near the Trail Ridge Marina and Bluebird Motel at 10:20 p.m. on July 4, 2013. Trail Ridge Marina is on Shadow Mountain Lake.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation records show Ackerman was previously charged with a DUI in 2002. In that case, he was found guilty and required to pay fines, serve 16 days in jail and be on probation for two years.
 
"This is our first experience with the criminal court system.  And I think more people need to be aware of what actually happens or can happen," said Connie Westley.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reported last March the 2013 felony trial conviction rate for the 14th Judicial District, overseen by Barkey and encompassing Routt, Grand and Moffat counties, was 35 percent. Last year's conviction rate was the lowest for the 10-year period going back to 2004.

Read Steamboat Pilot & Today story: http://ch7ne.ws/1m7kT88

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