Nearly a year after Trooper Nicholas Dees was killed in a horrible crash, the state’s case against the driver, Steven Wayne Clark, came to a close Thursday at the Seminole County Courthouse.
Clark is the reason it is now illegal to text and drive in Oklahoma and the reason family members of Trooper Dees have been in anguish for months.
At 2 p.m. in a half-full courtroom, a judge sentenced Clark to 12 years - five behind bars and seven suspended. While on probation, a judge said Clark cannot drive and cannot have a cell phone capable of anything other than dialing 911. Clark was also ordered to 100 hours of community service and to pay court fees. He was calm and quiet during the hearing Thursday. In previous court appearances, Clark was apologetic.
Investigators said Clark was updating social media on his phone on that rainy night in late January, when he blew through a crash scene, hitting and killing Trooper Dees and injuring Trooper Keith Burch.
Law enforcement runs in the Dees family. So while his parents are devastated by the loss of their son at the hands of Clark, they said they understand the system.
“You can’t bring Nick back. Should we destroy this young man? I hope not. I hope he changes,” said Bruce Dees, Nick’s father.
“I lost a son, my only child. I can’t question the judicial system. That’s what they’re there for. So I’m just accepting what they did,” Nick’s mother, Shelley Russell said.
Trooper Dees widow, Brandi, was slumped over in her seat during the court hearing and visibly upset after Clark's sentencing.
She's raising their two children without Nick now. But the whole family is on a new mission to keep anyone else from having to feel their pain.
“I believe Nick would be saying we did good [sic] today. He was all about saving lives and changing lives. We just need the people of this state to wake up. They need to get off their phones. They need to drive and pay attention to what’s happening,” Bruce Dees said.
Russell said Thursday she was upset by the fact that she was not able to read her victim impact statement during a sentencing hearing on December 8 – something she said would have helped give her closure.
She read it for News 9 – view it here.