10/13/11 – Those convicted of Operating While Intoxicated in Wisconsin are typically ordered to attend a Victim Impact Panel. That’s where the family or friends of those killed in drunken driving accidents recount their experiences to OWI offenders with the hopes of discouraging them from driving drunk in the future and maybe even finding something positive in such a tragic situation. There are only a couple panels offered in Dodge County each year and dozens turned out in Juneau last night to satisfy their court orders. Many were there for their first and second OWI while others were on their fourth or even fifth offense.
One of the speakers was Dan Thiel of Beaver Dam. Thiel lost his wife in a drunken driving accident ten years ago. This past May, his daughter Danni Jo died as a result of injuries sustained in that wreck. Earlier this month, he learned that Wisconsin law at the time of the accident prohibits the state from additional prosecution of the driver who was responsible for Danni Jo’s death. Fighting back tears, Thiel recounted the details of that fateful night near Horicon, and the nightmare he’s lived for over a decade, saying he has dreams every night about Danni Jo’s last two breaths. Overcome by emotion, Thiel ended his talk a little earlier than he planned but he concluded with a simple message. He asked the recently-convicted OWI offenders to stop being selfish and never again risk putting anyone else in his situation.
Nancy Franke, who coordinated the Victim Impact Panel, ended the session by telling those in attendance to think about Dan Thiel the next time they are out partying with their friends and consider getting behind the wheel. Danni Jo recounted her story in a video shortly before her death, they watched it last night and it can also be viewed here:
Nicholas Gross, the man responsible for causing the drunken driving death that killed Sue and Danni Jo Thiel, will be released from prison in May.