On May 3rd, 1980, my world came to an end. My daughter, Carime Anne Lightner, “Cari”, 13-years-old, was killed by a multiple repeat offender drunk driver. She was hit from behind, thrown 125 feet and left in the road to die. The drunk driver did not stop to render aid, nor did he tell anyone of his actions when he returned home. He did tell his wife “not to look at the car” before passing out drunk. She ignored him, looked at the car, and the rest is history.
When Clarence Busch killed my daughter, he was out on bail from another hit and run drunk driving crash, and had an astonishing 3 prior convictions for drunk driving in 4 years. Yet, somehow, he was still driving on a valid California driver’s license.
Cari Lightner was an identical twin and my “oldest” daughter by 4 minutes. She was beautiful, outgoing, athletic, popular, compassionate and funny! She was a great imitator of others and had a wonderful sense of humor. She and her sister were idolized by their younger brother, Travis – mainly because they were bigger than his friends, and could threaten them with bodily harm whenever they went after their brother.
Cari always said she would never leave home because she “had it made,” and always talked about going into the real estate business with me. She was a normal teenager, fretting over her weight, constantly on the phone, and the one everyone went to for advice. She was very mature for her age, and I still miss her. On the few occasions when I have dreamed of her, I wake up with the most incredible feeling of joy. I wish that would happen more often.
Clarence Busch was prosecuted, but despite the fact that he killed a child, left the scene, and had numerous priors, he was only sentenced to two years, and only for vehicular manslaughter. He ended up at a work camp and halfway house, had his car at the facility and drove to and from work and home on weekends. His full license was returned to him upon his release just 18 months later. He was given the usual time off for good behavior. Frankly, it is my firm belief that had I not started MADD, he would never have seen the inside of a halfway house. I had to fight my way through the criminal justice system or as we came to call it “the justice for the criminal system!”
Guess what? Shortly after his release, he hit another girl, with the same name as my daughter, while drinking and driving with a blood alcohol concentrate (BAC) of .20. This wasn’t the end of his illegalities, but it was more than enough.
Though I wasn’t able to see the man who killed my daughter prosecuted to the full extent of the law, I was able to see, through my work with MADD, increased prosecution and sentencing of other perpetrators who killed and injured innocent victims. I was also able to see a wondrous change in attitudes about the nation’s most often committed crime during that time.
Cari will always live on, in my heart and the hearts of her family and friends and in the pages of history. She was a remarkable child, and, thanks to the work of thousands of volunteers when MADD was grass roots, we saved thousands and now hundreds of thousands of lives. I know she would be proud.