It was a cloudy day in October, the Razorbacks were playing the usual Saturday game on TV and my husband was adamant about watching the game. So, we headed to town for game day snacks. Just as I entered the store, my oldest son Jonathan called. He said Jacob (my middle son) had been in a crash on the farm where he was working. Jonathan reassured me that Jacob would be ok, but I should meet them at the hospital in McGehee, Arkansas. On our way to the hospital, I just had this feeling that things were not OK. I kept having waves of terror and panic rush through me. We finally arrived at the hospital and Jacob was not there. I learned that once Jacob arrived, he would be air lifted to the University of Arkansas Medical Science in Little Rock.
Once airlifted Jacob’s condition worsened so the helicopter detoured to Pine Bluff where another hospital was located. We headed there too, and I just knew…my baby had died. My heart was torn into a million pieces, but my mind said, you must hold it together for Johnathan and my youngest son, Brannon. Once we arrived, we were sent to a room off to the side of the waiting room, “The family room.” This just confirmed my worst fears that Jacob had died. When the doctors came to tell me what I already knew, I turned my back because I did not want to hear what they had to say.
When Jacob was killed, my world went dark. He was my sunshine. I never in my wildest dreams thought I could ever bury my son, my best friend, my go to guy. I was numb.
I wanted to know what happened to my son. Why was he dead and exactly what actions took place that would cause such grief and pain? I started asking questions. The first thing I learned was that Jacob was standing in the back of a truck while working on the grain buggy attached to a tractor. The tractor’s driver recklessly pulled the grain buggy (a huge massive machine) over the back of the truck causing Jacob to fall underneath the grain buggy crushing my son.
I couldn’t understand why the tractor driver would do something so dangerous. Was he intoxicated, on drugs, was he incompetent, did he know what he was doing, WHAT?? I went to the Sherriff’s office and demanded an investigation into the crash. The Sherriff agreed, however, no evidence was ever collected, the crash site was not protected, and no alcohol or drug test was given to the tractor driver.
Once the Sherriff realized his deputy had not correctly investigated the circumstances around my son’s death, I was completely ignored. Those days were torture. I just wanted to know what happened to my son. Yet trying to get truthful answers was an ongoing battle. I needed someone to tell me something that was remotely believable regarding Jacob’s death. I felt let down on so many levels by the justice system and many of these people were my friends. I had known them for years. But now that I was a grieving mother, they had become strangers. I tried so hard to get these same people, my friends, to understand my rational. Surely, if this had happened to them, they would feel the same. I owed it to Jacob to make sure the truth was known and if someone was responsible for his death that person should be held accountable.
Once I realized the local authorities were not investigating Jacob’s death appropriately and were not responding to my calls, in frustration, I went to the media. The TV station did an excellent job of sharing his story and exposing the negligence of the investigation. One of the biggest problems of this lack of investigation concerned testing for alcohol or drugs on private property.
Arkansas has a loophole in their BUI DUI (Boating under the influence Driving under the influence) law that did not require a blood – alcohol test for fatal crashes on private land as it did on public highways and waterways. The investigating officer used this very loophole to get around assessing the tractor driver, therefor there was no evidence of any wrongdoing at the time my son was killed.
Changing this “loophole” was the catalyst that made it possible for me to get up in the morning. It was the driving force that kept me sane.
It was time to take action. I contacted my State Representative, Leanne Burch and Senator Eddie Cheatham. They agreed the law needed changing. After looking into the existing law, we decided to include BUI DUI testing for all crashes on private property involving death and injury. The Bill initially passed the committees and the House but failed on the Senate floor the first time. I watched via live television. I remember the gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak as I listened and saw the results on the Senate floor. It was so disappointing. Then Representative Burch called and explained that if we changed the bill it could pass. Instead of the BUI DUI law applying to people with injuries and death we excluded injuries and just made it death. The bill passed and this was the first time I felt any sense of justice after Jacob’s death. The new law will not only make it easier to investigate crashes on private land but will be a warning to all those drivers and boaters who feel their “dangerous behavior” is exempt on private property. The bill became known as Jacob’s Law.
The Governor had a “Special Signing Day” for certain Amendments and Jacob’s Law was a part of that special day.
My advice to any family that may find themselves in a situation where things just do not seem “right.” Fight!! You have resources and people that will help – look for them. I was very blessed to have a State Representative, Leanne Burch and Senator Eddie Cheatham that never gave up. They fought and pushed for this change to the law. They helped restore my faith in the Judicial System.
While Jacob’s Law does not give us the answers, we need to find peace and closure; it does leave a legacy in his honor that comforts me when comfort is needed.
What began as a mother’s intuition, a feeling that more should be done, a feeling that things should be made right, a heartbreaking feeling that the law let my son down, eventually became a victory – Jacob’s Law.
Jacob’s Mom, Carla Bishop
It was a cloudy day in October, the Razorbacks were playing the usual Saturday game on TV and my husband was adamant about watching the game. So, we headed to town for game day snacks. Just as I entered the store, my oldest son Jonathan called.