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Living with loss

Mother of drunk driving victim talks about grief, support and compassion

Posted: August 3, 2012 6:42 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2012 5:00 a.m.
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Brandon Jones loved to mountain hike and spend time with family friends and his three dogs.

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(The online version of this story has been corrected to include the word “almost” in the second sentence of the 10th paragraph. The omission of this word made it appear as though Mrs. Jones’ eldest son also died in an accident. He recovered from his injuries. The C-I regrets the error.)

Cheryl Jones has been a bereaved mother for nearly 10 years now. Her son, Brandon Jones was killed in an auto accident involving alcohol. An intoxicated driver crashed his vehicle into the car Brandon was driving.   

“September 26, 2003, at one minute after midnight, our lives were suddenly turned upside down,” Jones said.  

Cheryl, her husband, and son Brandon were all employed at the local DuPont facility at the time. Brandon was together with them in their home relaxing after working several days of overtime. Late in the evening Brandon’s cell phone rang. Some DuPont coworkers working the night shift had called and asked if he would bring them food from a local fast food restaurant.

“The next thing I realized there was a knock at the door,” Jones said.

Jones recalls opening the door to the coroner and first sergeant on duty. They told her that her son had been killed. It wasn’t until the next morning when the first sergeant came back to talk with her and her husband that she found out that Brandon had been killed by a drunk driver.

“I can barely remember a bond hearing. I went through the court proceedings … like a mechanical person. I do remember trying to make myself understand that nothing in the world would bring my son back. It wasn’t about the time a judge would give him (the defendant). It was about trying to make it myself,” Jones said of continuing to live on. “Looking back now I can see how blessed we were to get into court so quick. I am thankful that the defendant pled guilty, that we did not have to go through a jury trial.”

The defendant in the case was sentenced to 10 years and was scheduled to be released from prison last week. 

Jones stated that she has learned how to deal with the anger, come to forgiveness and even pray for the defendant’s family.

“I am thankful to God. I began to search for a purpose (in life) not long after that,” Jones said.  

Unfortunately, her tragic story does not end there. Two years later her older son almost died in an automobile accident as a passenger.

“He was the passenger, but he was intoxicated. The driver he was with was intoxicated, but I did not push prosecution because my son had made a choice to get in the car with an intoxicated driver. I knew then as a mother, it was my place to speak up (and) I started volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” Jones said.

Now a certified MADD Victim Advocate, Jones works with those who have lost loved ones, or who have been hurt. She encourages others in similar circumstances to seek counseling after a tragic death. Additional resources which she recommends include the Family’s of Highway Fatalities Assistance Program and The Compassionate Friends.  

“I have had support from so many -- my husband, church, family members. You think you are alone at the time, but you are not,” Jones said.

Along with her commitment to helping other bereaved families through MADD, Jones worked to help form the local chapter for The Compassionate Friends. On September 29, the group will host singer/songwriter Alan Pedersen in DeKalb Baptist Church’s fellowship hall. Pedersen, who began his own support group, Angels Across the USA, will be sharing his words, music and inspiration free to the public. The Compassionate Friends Midlands Chapter is currently accepting donations to assist with costs for the event.

Jones stressed, “If there is one thing that I want the public to know, it is that drunk driving hurts. It does not have to happen. But if it does, there is help out there.”

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