It was a bitter sweet moment yesterday as I sat in the courtroom in Marshfield, Mo., the Webster County seat. This was the location of the hearing for the lady who had killed my good friend and fellow law enforcement officer John A. (Jay) Samprietro Jr. For those who have forgotten, Jay was run down by Wendye Chesher on Aug. 17, 2005, as Jay was assisting with an accident reconstruction on Interstate 44 in Webster County.
I must tell you that I am still appalled at the fact that Ms. Chesher was only sentenced to five years probation and seven days of shock time for second degree manslaughter. Now, this is not the fault of the prosecution team, as they did an exceptional job. Prosecutor Cynthia Black worked very diligently on this case and brought it to a decisive end.
This is the fault of a poorly written Missouri Statute that must be changed. Currently the Missouri House is considering legislation that would make it a Class B felony to negligently kill an officer who is on duty. The current Missouri Statute states you must be impaired or intoxicated for it to be considered a first degree manslaughter case.
In this day and age we have many drivers on the roadway who do not pay attention to their environment. We have too many distractions and we do not take responsibility for our actions - "it was just an accident." Most of these accidents are preventable and certainly the death of my good friend was one of those. A statement that was made by a truck driver who witnessed this incident was that he was stopped and could see Jay and his patrol unit with the emergency lights on, when Ms. Chesher's vehicle accelerated passed him.
When Ms. Chesher's vehicle struck Jay, she was traveling at an estimated speed of between 60 and 67 MPH. I do not know what her excuses are. However, her own attorney admitted in court that she was negligent and careless. She was operating a 3,500 pound missile and she is RESPONSIBLE for the direction of that missile, as we all should be.
Yes, our job as law enforcement officers is dangerous, and yes we all know that we put it on the line each and every day for each of you who we have sworn to protect; and there was no one who understood this better than Jay. It is now your turn to help us fix this law and make it a serious offense to negligently, irresponsibly and carelessly kill one of us. I am so angry at the fact that our lives are only worth seven days shock time and five years probation.
Jay graduated from Sikeston High School and began his law enforcement career with Sikeston DPS, his parents John A. Samprietro Sr. and Gerrie still live here. Jay leaves behind a loving and caring wife Jennifer, she is leading the charge to change this law, as well as two young sons who will never have a chance to know and love their wonderful father . . . let's not let his death be in vain.
This excerpt from the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics: "As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind: to safeguard lives and property: to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder, and to respect the constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality and justice. . ."
Sikeston Department of Public Safety