Debbie Sausville will speak to anyone who will listen about the death of her stepdaughter, Lauren Sausville, in a drunken driving crash one year ago Saturday. Students. Churches. Drunk drivers. Even cops.
Sausville admits that Lauren, 16, "paid the ultimate price for her mistake that night." The Fairfax High School junior was driving a 1999 Ford Explorer on a dark stretch of Colchester Road in the Fairfax Station area when she lost control of the vehicle, overturned, skidded down a hill and smashed into a car she had been following.
But Sausville also hasn't forgotten that a 27-year-old man bought the beer for Lauren and that Lauren's friends say it was not the man's first time doing so. One year later, police have not been able to find Landon C. Cousins of Clifton, who is charged with one count of buying alcohol for a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, both misdemeanors.
"Providing alcohol to minors," Sausville said, "which results in the death of a loved one, is inexcusable." She urged anyone who sees Cousins to call police.
Sausville approached Mothers Against Drunk Driving shortly after the crash "because my way of dealing with Lauren's death is to try to prevent it [from] happening to anyone else." She spoke recently to a group of eighth-graders and also has addressed participants in the county's Alcohol Safety Action Program, mandated for anyone convicted of drunken driving.
"I told them, 'You are the lucky ones,' " Sausville said. " 'You're lucky that the police were there. Lauren wasn't that lucky. I wish there was a cop in Lauren's path that night.' "
C.J. Snyder, 18, was at the same party as Lauren in the Fair Lakes area Dec. 3, 2004. Lauren had been drinking for hours, after she and her friends had called Cousins to ask him to buy them beer, Snyder said. He said he heard Lauren on the phone, getting directions to another party.
Snyder said he and his girlfriend implored Lauren not to drive. Her blood alcohol level was later measured at .13, well above the legal definition of intoxication. He arrived at the crash scene not long after Lauren was killed.
"Seeing what I saw on that night is an image I will never forget," Snyder said.
"It's not something that any parent can prevent or stop from happening," he added. "It comes down to the individual and for people learning from other people's mistakes."
Sausville said she tells people: "It can happen to you, and eventually it will happen to you."
As part of a "Safe December" initiative, Fairfax police officers who specialize in finding drunk drivers will hit the roads. In addition to roving patrols, Fairfax police will conduct weekly DWI checkpoints and send underage police cadets into stores and restaurants to see if they can buy alcohol illegally.
-- Tom Jackman