Bill to make drunk drivers pay for victims’ children heads to governor

On August 25, 2019, Shelby Strong got a call that would change her life forever. Just before her wedding, she lost her fiancé Cody McClung to a drunk driver.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 7:53 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On August 25, 2019, Shelby Strong got a call that would change her life forever. Just before her wedding, she lost her fiancé Cody McClung to a drunk driver, leaving her and their three children behind.

“After he passed, we lost a huge chunk of income, couldn’t make ends meet, also the physical and the mental toll that it took on me losing a partner and my child’s parent….So you know, I went back to work after two weeks because I needed to have that income,” said Strong.

Now, having to take care of their kids alone, she’s in need of help. A bill at the Capitol this year would make her husband’s killer financially responsible for all three of them until they’re 18.

“He worked for the oil field, so he made a good amount of money, and I made a teacher’s salary…which at the time was about $20,000,” Strong added.

Cody’s mother, Valerie Sanders, said it’s only right.

“I mean he was a great person, a great father, he loved his kids and…just an all-around good person…just…taken away from us too soon,” said Sanders.

The bill has been able to get through most of its hurdles at the legislature but not without controversy. Opponents say a situation like Shelby’s is a judicial issue, not a legislative issue.

“I thought in its posture it wasn’t in a place where it would be beneficial to everybody, it was gonna have some challenges. I’m on board with the concept, but I think the bill needed a lot of work and that’s why I couldn’t support it in its form,” said Rep. Nicholas Muscarello (R).

That argument, however, hasn’t been strong enough to sway the majority to vote it down. On Monday, June 5, the bill managed to survive its final vote on the Senate floor with overwhelming support. Because Cody’s case happened during COVID, his killer spent little time behind bars, and believe it or not, is back on the road.

“I think it’s important for people to know that when you say you can just go after the people who killed the parent in civil court that it’s not anywhere near what is enough to take care of a child or anywhere near what the repercussions should be. The fine she was given was $1,500, and she only spent eight months behind bars,” Strong explained.

Shelby said life will never be the same without her husband, her best friend, and the father of her child, but said moving forward she and her family are taking it one day at a time.

“It’s something my children will always live with, and I’ll always live with. But for me, it feels comforting knowing that another mother will not deal with that financial toll that I went through,” Strong added.

The bill is now sitting on the governor’s desk, but with some of the controversy attached to this bill, it could go either way from here.

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