Saturday, February 21, 2009
Relatives of the Four Killed in '92 DWI Accident Forgive Driver
By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer
A drunken driver who galvanized the anti-DWI movement in New Mexico will wear an ankle bracelet, use an ignition interlock and will meet with his parole officer about four times a week under conditions decided by the parole board Friday morning.
Gordon House, who was convicted in a Christmas Eve 1992 crash that killed a mother and her three daughters, is set to be released March 6 and will spend two years under the highest level of supervision available, said Ella Frank, parole board executive director.
The crash, which quickly became a symbol of New Mexico's drunken-driving problem, occurred when Paul and Melanie Cravens took daughters Kacee, 5, Erin, 8, and Kandyce, 9, for a drive to look at Christmas light displays in Albuquerque. They were driving west on Interstate 40 when they were struck by House, who was drunk and driving the wrong way.
Paul Cravens, who survived the crash, spoke Friday before the parole board. He read letters written by Melanie Cravens' sisters Celeste and Polly, which emphasized forgiveness and the family's strong Christian faith.
"From this day forward, when I speak your name, 'Gordon House' inside my heart I will have no ill will toward you," sister Celeste Groomer wrote. "There will be no more anger, no more hurt or pain associated with your name."
Melanie Cravens' mother Nadine Milford, who became an outspoken advocate for anti-DWI measures, said Friday that the family has made peace with House's release and with their loss.
"The grieving and the pain, we left them there today," she said.
Milford said after the hearing that the family formed a circle in the prison chapel and prayed, then left their grief behind.
"He's served the time for the crime," Milford said, adding that, at the hearing, House told the board about his activities and volunteer work while he was incarcerated. "He was an asset in prison."
Milford said that, even the night of the crash when the pain was still fresh, Milford knew the family would one day forgive House.
"We didn't even know who it was," she said. "And I said, 'We have to forgive whoever did this.' "
House will be placed in community corrections, a probation and parole program designed for higher-need offenders who typically have a history of substance abuse or other issues that might put them at risk to reoffend. "It's very close monitoring," Frank said.
There are several phases of the program, corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland said. In the first phase, House will meet with his parole officer about four times a week, and his parole officer will visit House's home and work once he gets a job.
If successful in the program, House will advance to a second phase that includes contact with a parole officer about twice a week, and then a third phase with more flexible contact. Bland said House will also be given a GPS ankle bracelet, at least for the beginning of his parole, and will have an ignition interlock on his vehicle for the full two years. He will also be required to perform community service.