DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A North Texas family sending what they hope will be a ‘sobering’ message to anyone tempted to drink and drive this holiday season:
“Please consider the consequences.”
“I gave him a hug and a kiss,” says Renee Taylor, speaking of her husband of nearly 38 years, Melvin. “I didn’t know that would be the last time that I would hug and kiss him.”
The Marine veteran from Lancaster who loved to sing, and who was known for inviting strangers to Thanksgiving dinner, was killed October 29 in a wrong-way crash on the Dallas North Tollway.
“I couldn’t breathe,” shared his daughter Evelyn Valdez when she received the phone call at her home out of state. She says her dad was a best friend, that person that she could turn to for anything. “I was breathless.”
Then later, when they learned that a serial drunk driver had been arrested, they worked to keep the news from their mother. They were only successful for so long.
“I actually fell to the ground, hysterical, crying,” Taylor recalls. “I just felt like, nobody, nobody deserves to die like that.”
The couple met at church and married as teenagers. They raised a loving, close-knit family. And then she was forced to bury him the day before their 38th wedding anniversary.
“If you go to our family events, there’s no drinking,” says Taylor, her voice both grieving and still filled with disbelief. “You come to our house for Thanksgiving, Christmas… There’s no drinking. How did this happen if that’s not even our world?”
Investigators believe Taylor was driving home from his overnight construction job when Chaz Thames slammed into his vehicle, head on.
Thames was driving northbound in the southbound lanes of the Dallas North Tollway.
He is now jailed, charged with murder after a string of DWI convictions. Bail has been set at $500,000.
“He’s had three, maybe even more chances to do the right thing,” says the family’s attorney, Larry F. Taylor, Jr., Managing Partner of The Cochran Firm. “He killed someone this time: chances over. They would like to see him not be out and hurt someone else.”
And they’re also asking lawmakers to do more to protect the public.
“There are devices that you can actually put on someone that let you know immediately if they have alcohol in their system,” says Larry Taylor (no relation). “There are things that could have been done to insure that he did not have a drink after being paroled.”
The family made clear that their faith does not allow them to hate. And yet the still grieving, shell-shocked widow lost her battle to hold back tears when asked if there was anything she would like to say to the man accused of taking from them so much.
“I don’t have the words, I’m sorry. I can’t answer that. I can’t answer that.”
The family’s attorney says he will pursue civil remedies against anyone involved in over serving the suspect prior to the crash, but says that’s for some point in the future, after the criminal investigation is complete.
For now, the heartbroken family is just trying to breathe and get through Thanksgiving.
“She saw us getting ready,” says Renee Taylor of a f4-year-old granddaughter. “She said ‘oh, finally, we get to go see grandpa’. She’s 4 years old, so she really thought that we were going to see my husband coming here. And we had to explain to her, ‘no, honey… we’re not going to see him, until we go to heaven’.”