Some are heartbreaking. Others are devastating because they involve loss of life. Such tragedy means added pain for the survivors who are left to cope with unimagined absence, to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and to move on. Yet, the moving on is the most difficult part of recovery because it requires time ... the same kind of time needed by all who are involved in the same tragedy.
The question at hand then is, “What is a reasonable length of time required to learn such a lesson?”
Obviously, the answer lies in the severity of that which has occurred.
In this case, the seriousness is unparalleled. It involves loss of life, personal injury, child neglect, alcohol and illegal drug abuse, and inexcusable decision-making.
We speak of the tragedy that befell two Bradley County residents in July 2010. It was a head-on collision on APD 40 involving the vehicles of Dustin Ledford and Tiffany Isaza. Ledford, only 24 at the time of the crash, was killed. Isaza, the mother of two small children who had been left alone at home, was seriously injured in the impact that was caused because she was driving impaired, and in the wrong direction on the bypass.
Later investigation confirmed the presence of alcohol and methamphetamine in her system at the time of the accident. The woman was charged, tried and found guilty of vehicular homicide and child endangerment. She was sentenced to eight years for vehicular homicide and two years for child endangerment, and ordered to serve her time in the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Isaza, who is imprisoned in Nashville, is now eligible for parole. Her hearing is scheduled Thursday. Dustin Ledford’s parents, Danny and Kim, will attend and will speak at the hearing.
The Ledfords object to Isaza’s early parole, and so does Brooklyn Martin, assistant district attorney general in the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office which has submitted a letter of opposition. In Sunday’s edition of our newspaper, Martin confirmed the lead law enforcement agency wants Isaza to serve the full 10-year sentence.
Kim Ledford also has shared a letter with the Cleveland Daily Banner that she intends to read at Thursday’s hearing. In the letter, Ledford describes Isaza’s decision to get behind the steering wheel of an automobile while impaired as a “choice.”
“People make bad ‘choices’ every day, but I also believe in accountability,” the Ledford testimony cites. “Being accountable for our actions is what brings about change. I’m not sure that 22 short months is enough time to get the need for alcohol out of her (Isaza’s) system, much less time to reflect on the tremendous loss we feel from the loss of Dustin.”
Having adopted Dustin at birth, the grief still felt by Danny and Kim Ledford is nothing less than searing. It tears at raw emotions. It rips away at heavy hearts. It stabs at open wounds whose emotional healing may never find a peaceful closure.
In her comments at the parole hearing, Kim Ledford will speak of the emptiness in the 26 months since the loss of Dustin. For 788 days, she and Danny have gone without seeing or holding their son. They missed his 25th and 26th birthdays, two Halloweens, two Thanksgivings, two Christmases, two Valentine’s Days and four lonely Mother’s and Father’s Days whose sadness in their son’s absence was unbearable.
“A child’s life is surely worth more than a mere 22 months of incarceration,” she will plead.
It is a torturous time for all; yet, we agree with the Ledford family and the district attorney general’s position.
We bear no ill-will toward Tiffany Isaza. Once she is eventually released from prison, this young woman will face unimaginable challenges in life. She will require prayer. Most importantly, she will need support.
Yet, these are the products of her choices. And such poor choices should never be taken lightly.
Full accountability, lessons learned and a family’s grief remain at stake.
A time of public forgiveness, and an opportunity to start anew, surely will come for Tiffany Isaza, but that time should not be Thursday.
Twenty-two months is not sufficient. The Ledford family’s tears are just too fresh.