Man who accidentally killed wife and pets

On a regular day, when Pete was headed to work, he experienced a typical problem—his car wouldn't start. Using jumper cables, he started his car by getting a boost from his wife Jennifer's car. As Pete left for work, he forgot to turn off Jennifer's car. While Jennifer was sleeping, carbon monoxide fumes filled the house, eventually killing her and their pets. Pete knew something was wrong when he did not hear from Jennifer that day. When he got home, he experienced the unimaginable.

"I found my wife and my two animals, and they were gone," Pete says. "And I know it was a mistake and mistakes happen every day. … You can scream, kick, cry and fight, and the circumstances are not going to change. I wish I could have said 10 more words or hugged her one more time, but I'll do that again sometime."
Father and Mother of accidentally shot son

It was a tragic case of mistaken identity. Late one night, after returning home from a church retreat, Minister Forrest Johnson thought something was terribly wrong in his home. Thinking a burglar was in the house, Minister Johnson panicked and accidentally fired a shot when he saw a shadow of a man standing just a few feet away. Minister Johnson had accidentally shot and killed his 18-year-old son, Shawn, who had stopped by to do laundry.

"Often in life, when something like this happens, we really don't know which way to go," Minister Johnson says. "I think that the first thing you have to do is look to your religious beliefs. I feel that it will get you through. My wife is still having a difficult time. However, I know that God is going to bring her through."

The first thing Minister Johnson's wife, Beverly, said to him after she heard what happened was, "I love you."

"I know he had to be hurting just like I was hurting," Beverly says.

No charges have been filed against Minister Forrest Johnson.
Parents of lost boy

Kevin and Heidi Bardsley say their 12-year-old son Garrett was the light-hearted one of the family and very close to his brothers and sister. Kevin took Garrett and Garrett's older brother Cameron on a Boy Scout overnight campout. It was an ideal morning, father and son fishing together, until Garrett slipped on a rock and got his feet wet. Garrett decided to walk back to camp by himself, just 150 yards away, so he could warm up. That was the last time Kevin saw his son.

After thousands of volunteers searched for Garrett in the woods, the official search was called off nine days after he was reported missing. Even though there is snow on the mountains now, Kevin continues to search, trying to get closure.

Last year, before the tragedy, the family decided to forego Christmas presents and do a humanitarian project in Mexico instead. Garrett, according to his family, loved the experience most of all. This holiday season, the family will travel to Ecuador and build a school in Garrett's name.

"Garrett loved it a lot last year when we went to Mexico," Kevin says. "When we came home, he said, 'Dad, can you sell your business, and we can just go down and live in a tent and help these people all the time?' I mean, that's how much he loved it. He was looking forward to going to Ecuador to work. We never thought we'd be building a school [in his name] at this time."
Hallie's parents forgive Lara

It's every driver's worst nightmare: accidentally hitting a child. It was moving day for Lara and she was driving her family's SUV around the block. Meanwhile, one street over, 11-year-old honor student Hallie Geier was about to walk her dog. Even though they had never met, their lives were about to collide in a tragic way. As Hallie left her house with her dog, the sixth grader stepped right into the path of the SUV Lara was driving. In a split second, Hallie was accidentally run down. Lara has never spoken publicly about the accident nor has she seen Hallie's parents Ted and Sofia since that fatal day—until now. No charges have been filed against Lara.

In their darkest hours of grief, Hallie's parents, Sofia and Ted, knew what Hallie's last wish would be. "If Hallie had lived," says her father Ted, "I know that she would have found it in her heart to insist that we reach out to the driver and make sure she was okay."

Ted and Sofia embrace Lara. "This was an accident," says Ted. "You had the choice to drive away, which a lot of people do, or to stay and try to help her. You did everything you could. You didn't do anything wrong. We know that."
Hallie's parents make a contribution to the Angel Network

"[Hallie] had a very short life," says her father Ted. "But she had a great life and it's still going on in a lot of ways." Hallie's parents are reminded of their daughter's compassionate soul and desire to help other children through the hundreds of stories, poems and journals of "Fierce Wonderings"—her thoughts that she left behind.

To Do Something Special by Hallie
I want to do something special this year, or even 20 years from now. I want to stand out sometime. That may be the reason I've decided to become a doctor when I'm grown. Most kids think that's stupid, even you may thinking that too as you read this. But I want to help. Anything! I can help clean up my neighborhood, wash away mean words written on walls, so no one has to be reminded of the hate that lingers in this world. I'm getting off point. Anyway, I want to help the class community, or help raise money for starving people. I want to become more active in peacemaking, and helping people make the right choices. I want to help save endangered species. I want to discover the cure for cancer, and save lives. I just hope I get the chance.
© Sofia and Ted Geier

During the last year of her life, Hallie was saving her lunch money specifically for children affected by AIDS in sub–Saharan Africa. With the saved lunch money they found in Hallie's drawer, along with contributions to their foundation, Ted and Sofia donated $10,000 to Oprah's Angel Network. "That would have made Hallie so happy," Sofia says. "In fact, it is making her happy. I know it is."
FROM: When You Accidentally Kill Someone
Published on November 11, 2004


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