Proposed ‘Bentley’s Law’ Would Make Drunk Drivers in Louisiana Pay Child Support if Parent is Killed
A grandmother in Missouri is hoping to get support on a proposed new law that she believes would cut down on drunken driving.
Cecilia Williams is taking a tragic moment in her life and using it to fuel what she is calling "Bentley's Law," named after her 5-year-old grandson. Williams' work on the new legislation began after a car crash involving an accused drunken driver claimed the lives of three family members back in April 2021.
Cecilia's son, Cordell Williams was in the car with his fiance Lacey Newton and their 4-month-old infant son, Cordell Williams II when they were rear-ended, causing them to go off the road and crash. All three of them were killed.
Authorities say the accused drunk driver, David Thurby, had a blood-alcohol level that was twice the legal limit at the time of the crash. According to a Fox 13 report, Thurby told police he had "seven shots of crown and water." Williams says that she is raising the now-deceased couple's two other children, Mason (3) and Bentley (5).
As a grandmother to the two children, Williams is looking after them in the wake of the fatal accident that claimed the lives of their parents, but not every family has that option—let alone the financial capacity to properly raise orphaned children in the event that they would even be lucky enough to have loved ones who would assume the responsibility of legal guardianship of the little ones left behind.
"Bentley's Law" (named after her five-year-old grandchild) would require drunken drivers who cause the death of a parent or parents to pay child support to a surviving spouse, relative, or legal guardian raising the victim's children until they turn 18. While the legislation will undoubtedly have to be a lot more detailed and thorough to be considered, Williams says that the bottom line is simple.
They deserve to get that compensation because you’re talking about raising children that their parents are no longer here.
Missouri State Representative Mike Henderson agrees with Williams and plans to introduce Bentley's Law during the next legislative session in his home state.
I do firmly believe that these people who are driving drunk and take away the parents of these children, there’s got to be some help for these children. It comes down to that
There is already a statute in Missouri that requires DUI offenders to pay a one-time payment to families of victims. "Bentley's Law" would be coupled with that statute to continue providing payments to children of the victims until they are of legal age.
The idea is to marry Bentley’s law with the statute and create something that would take care of these kids who were orphaned. I want these kids taken care of.
Williams also believes that in addition to giving surviving parents and legal guardians the support needed to properly raise the children of fatal DUI crash victims, it will also "make an offender think twice before drinking and driving again."
And I believe it will teach people. I am not knocking the laws. I do believe they’re flawed, however, I believe that just like anybody else when they’re working to change things, there’s only so far they can go. So they do the best that they can and I truly believe people value money more than they do people’s lives. And when you, and I hate to use this term, but when you’re going to hit them where it hurts the most, it will not only help the victim, it’s going to help that person who’s driving under the influence to think, ‘I shouldn’t do this again. Look what my actions caused
To be clear, "Bentley's Law wouldn't absolve any DUI offenders of their crimes, as drunken drivers would still have to face penalties or jail time handed down as a result of their actions, but this would be a double-whammy of sorts—stacked on top of their punishment in hopes that they wouldn't offend again.
Williams set up a Bentley's Law Facebook page where multiple families and individuals have shared similar heartbreaking stories from coast to coast.
I read a lot of people’s stories on pages on Facebook and it’s heartbreaking when they are literally left with nothing. Raising children again is not always easy. Doesn’t mean that I or anyone wouldn’t do it, because we would. They’re our family and we love them. But it’s not easy. Somewhere along the line, there has to be a responsibility for the offenders
With Louisiana being a state with some of the worst drunk driving statistics, it isn't far-fetched to think that this type of legislation could be at our front door sooner than later depending on how things go in Williams' home state of Missouri.
I was on the phone with a lady from Illinois who is on that (Facebook) group. She is looking to help change and get Bentley’s law in Illinois. I receive numerous phone calls and inboxes every day from people, a lot of people going through the same thing. A lot of people are trying to figure out how they can help to make this happen
Williams says she fully intends to take her fight against drunken driving nationwide and encourages those who feel the same way to reach out to their local and state leadership in an effort to avoid the unimaginable pain that she and so many others have had to endure.
If they feel Bentley’s law is something they would like to have in their state, please reach out to your representatives. Get this started. Help make this go nationwide
To say that she has support on social media from anyone who reads her story would be an understatement.
Given recent situations like the Acadiana family who lost three beautiful children due to an alleged drunk driver who was reportedly three times over the legal limit, do you believe "Bentley's Law" would help to get drunk drivers off of our Louisiana roads?
By the way, their story has already made it to Williams as it was recently shared on the Bentley's Law Facebook page.
Sound off in the comments, and share this with friends to see what they think, and see more about Bentley's Law here via Fox 13.