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"Truth never damages a cause that is just." (Gandhi)

Headline: As months pass, no one is held responsible
Des Moines Register - Des Moines, Iowa
Author: Basu Rekha
Date: Dec 30, 2005
Start Page: A.13
Section: Main News
Text Word Count: 1014

Document Text


...for boy's death

Rekha Basu

A 13-year-old northwest Iowa boy is dead, his parents so consumed with grief that five months later, his mother can't close her eyes to sleep without images flooding her mind of her child laid out on a metal slab at the funeral home.

Anthony Vos of Sutherland was a straight-A, Talented and Gifted student, who played guitar, read voraciously, skateboarded and was so loved that at his funeral, 600 of the town's 660 people turned out to say goodbye.

But what haunts his parents, Gwen and Rian Vos, is that Anthony would still be alive if their orders had been followed by the adults in charge of him that June weekend he and his younger brother spent at their grandparents' place at Spirit Lake.

Anthony was killed in a June 17 crash while riding on the back of a motorcycle operated by his aunt's boyfriend, Dustin Lokhorst. The Voses say they told Anthony's grandparents in person and again in a phone message not to let Anthony ride with Lokhorst, as they previously had told Rian's sister, Brooke, and Lokhorst. They didn't trust the 22-year-old, who does motorcycle stunts and has chalked up 26 traffic and criminal offenses in seven years. He survived.

Brooke denies they were ever told that. Rian's mother, Wanda, acknowledges the phone message, but says she didn't listen to it until three days after Anthony was killed. Rian no longer speaks to his parents or Brooke, who has two children with Lokhorst.

The outrage hangs over the Voses like a shroud. They find it inconceivable that more than six months after their son died, no one has been charged with a crime. A hearing on it has finally been scheduled before a Dickinson County grand jury in January, but only after the Voses contacted elected officials who began making inquiries of the county attorney.

To add to their pain, harassing, anonymous messages have been e-mailed to them or to Web sites they set up for Anthony.

Though Rian's parents and sister say it was just a tragic accident, Rian says it would be different "if it was just an accident where hehit a patch of ice or something ran into him." But he says his family "knew the guy was wangerous but they allowed (Anthony) to go with him."

The crash happened at nearly 11 p.m. Neither person was wearing a helmet, though Iowa law doesn't require one. The road and weather conditions were fine, and blood tests ruled out alcohol or drug use. But a witness interviewed by police claimed to have seen the motorcycle whiz past a mobile speed detector at 52 mph, though the speed limit was 35. A second witness claimed to have heard the motorcycle speeding just before it went off the road and crashed into the parked truck.

Lt. Kelly Hindman of the Iowa State Patrol says that no conclusions about speed could be made from the skid marks on the road and that evidence from those speed detectors isn't admissible in court.

Under Iowa law, a person can be found guilty of Class-C felony vehicular homicide for operating a vehicle recklessly with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, or of a Class-D felony for unintentionally causing serious injury.

In the past, Lokhorst has been found guilty of careless driving, speeding, reckless operation of a watercraft, operating with his license suspended, failure to maintain safety belts, failure to have a valid motorcycle license, another motorcycle violation, failure to obey a stop sign and driving while barred as a habitual offender. This time he was driving without insurance.

Not every accident can be pegged to negligence or recklessness, but there are enough red flags to at least investigate. Yet the Voses say it took the Dickinson County Attorney five months just to begin. In frustration, in November the Voses contacted elected officials and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. They wrote to Miller that two months after the incident, they were being told nothing had been done because of staff summer vacations. In a September meeting with Assistant County Attorney Bethany Brands, they wrote, "We were asked to provide information about Dusty's driving and criminal record, even though this is data they should have access to. Much of the other information that we shared with them about the accident was new to them, and it was all information we had learned from talking with the Spirit Lake Police Department."

Rian says a week after officials began asking questions of County Attorney Rosalise Olson, she called them in for a meeting, displeased that her office was being "attacked," and only then was a traffic investigator enlisted. Yet Rian says the system wasted no time issuing a warrant for his arrest July 9, when he was on his way out to the crash site after making statements some family members construed as threatening. He later pleaded guilty of violating the open-container law and interfering with official acts, both simple misdemeanors.

Olson won't comment on the crash or her office's handling of it. Rian's mother, Wanda, still hoping for a reconciliation with her son, says, "If Dustin is found guilty, we will tell them to throw the book at him."

Rian's sister says Lokhorst has no memory of the accident because of a traumatic brain injury. "He'd do a lot of stunts on his motorcycle but never when anybody was with him," she said. She says they both loved Anthony, and that the Voses "have so much anger, they just have to blame somebody."

But she and Lokhorst haven't apologized or gotten in touch since learning they'd be unwelcome at Anthony's funeral.

For the Voses, some days without Anthony are almost unbearable. "It just crushes you," said Rian. So they grieve and wait for someone to answer for it.

REKHA BASU can be reached at rbasu@dmreg.com or (515) 284-8584.

Photo_By: SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER: Killed: Anthony Vos of Sutherland was killed in a June 17 crash while riding on the back of a motorcycle operated by his aunt's boyfriend.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

Abstract (Document Summary)

In the past, Lokhorst has been found guilty of careless driving, speeding, reckless operation of a watercraft, operating with his license suspended, failure to maintain safety belts, failure to have a valid motorcycle license, another motorcycle violation, failure to obey a stop sign and driving while barred as a habitual offender.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

"Truth is generally the best vindication against slander." (Abraham Lincoln)