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Jason Galus, who died on April 28, 2009, from injuries resulting from a van colliding with his bicycle the day before, is seen in this photograph taken on a family trip at Disney World with his wife, Yvonne, and daughter, Jillian.

Special to the Banner
The Duncan Banner

It’s been just over three weeks since a white van collided with a bicycle on the corner of Clayton Street and Chisholm Trail Parkway in Duncan, which resulted in the death of a 29-year-old United States Army captain.

Jason Galus was traveling south in the southbound lane of Chisholm Trail Parkway on the bicycle and Betty Williams was turning left from the northbound lane of Chisholm Trail Parkway onto Clayton Street in the van.

Duncan Police Master Officer Layle Baker investigated the accident and issued a citation to Williams for failing to yield the right of way.

On May 5, Williams entered a plea of no contest to the charge, paid a $99 fine and went on her way.

On May 7, Galus was buried in the Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colo.

When the family returned to Duncan after the funeral, they were notified that only a citation was issued and that the case was closed, which caused them to feel distraught and to ask questions about the entire investigative process.

Galus’ wife, Yvonne, was understandably upset over the matter.

“She got off and my husband is dead,” Galus said. “He fought in Iraq for 13 months. He was an honorable guy. He was a good guy. And this is how he is thanked?”

Galus’ father, Al, was just as upset as his daughter-in-law.

“We feel it was treated like a fender bender,” he said. “All that was done was a citation. It didn’t go to the district attorney’s office.

“It’s an unbelievable depressing loss. We feel like we were victims when he died and now we feel like we are victims again. It hurts twice as much.”

Duncan City Attorney James Frieda knew that the family would feel upset over how things transpired, so he spent over an hour talking with them in his office about the matter.

“I was thinking on my life and I asked myself how I would feel if I was in their shoes,” Frieda said. “So I called them up ... I think they have every right to question what was done.

“It’s terribly painful for the family. I expressed my condolences to them.”

When Frieda originally approved Williams’ citation, he felt that the investigation was closed.

“At the time, it looked and felt appropriate,” Frieda said. “What lent weight to that decision was the experience of the investigative officer, who also wrote the citation.”

But there were questions and issues that the family found with the investigative report that led them to feel that the case was not completely closed.

One of the things the family noticed was that Williams was not tested for alcohol or drugs. They also noticed that the witness, who made the initial 911 call, was not interviewed. A subsequent accident report included an interview with the witness, which changed the narrative of events to some extent.

The original report had Galus turning onto Clayton Street when the accident occurred. After interviewing the witness, the revised report did not have Galus turning onto the side street.

The family asked Frieda these questions and several others.

Frieda did not have complete answers for some of the family’s inquiries, but said he would look into it and call them back with answers.

“I will continue to research their questions,” Frieda said. “I want to make sure of my answers before I respond.”

As of now, Frieda said he doesn’t feel there is any basis for amending the citation in any way.

And had the city sent the information to the district attorney’s office for possible prosecution, Frieda said it probably would have refused to prosecute for second-degree manslaughter or negligent homicide.

According to Oklahoma statute, second-degree manslaughter is the killing of a human being by any act that is not excusable, nor murder, nor manslaughter in the first degree, which is killing during the commission of a misdemeanor.

According to Oklahoma statute, negligent homicide is the death of a person as a result of an injury received by the driving of any vehicle by any person in reckless disregard of the safety of others.

The appropriate statute to follow for Galus and Williams’ accident would be negligent homicide, Frieda said.

But because Williams’ only wrongdoing was failing to yield the right of way, negligent homicide doesn’t apply, either, he said.

The district attorney’s office issued a press release to The Banner, which included reasons for not filing manslaughter or negligent homicide charges against Williams.

According to the press release, Williams cannot be prosecuted through District Court because the city already prosecuted Williams for the incident. To do so would violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, which means a person can’t be charged in court for the same offense twice.

Assistant District Attorney Dennis Gay said that because Williams’ failure to yield resulted in the death, double jeopardy applies.

“It’s a sad deal,” Gay said.

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