- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

OSAGE, Iowa (AP) - Parents who lost 20-year-old daughter after she was hit by a car in northern Iowa are disappointed in the sentence the driver faces.

The Globe Gazette reports (https://bit.ly/29figRU ) 24-year-old Courtney Lynn Johnson admitted to sending a text message while she was driving, but she has only been charged with two traffic violations. She will likely receive a fine and a six-month suspension of her driver’s license when she is sentenced July 15.

Grace Harken died last July 29 after she was hit while riding her bicycle along Highway 218.

Darrel Harken said he hopes Iowa lawmakers will re-evaluate the penalties for similar crashes. He said the penalty is ridiculously low and won’t discourage others.

“It needs to be put in the hands of the Iowa Legislature,” he said.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Pete Grady said the state doesn’t have a negligent homicide statute, so the courts require behavior that goes beyond negligence to convict someone of vehicular homicide.

Grady said Iowa courts have established a high standard of proof for reckless behavior that causes death.

“It’s very troubling from a traffic safety point of view as well as a public safety point of view,” Grady said.

Assistant Mitchell County Attorney Aaron Murphy said the only thing Johnson could be charged with in this case was misdemeanor traffic violations.

“That’s where we are at,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if it is justice or not, but that’s what the law is.”

The Harken family has decided not to file a civil lawsuit against Johnson, and they continue to grieve.

Grace Harken had been attending Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada, before her death. Her mother, Christine Harken, said her daughter loved going on mission trips and believed in the power of forgiveness.

“Not forgiving won’t bring Grace back,” Darrel Harken said.

“But we have deep sadness. We miss her,” Christine Harken said.


Information from: Globe Gazette, https://www.globegazette.com/

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