Dottie Lamer was not one of those fervent Christians who forgave the convict in jail who killed their loved one. No; she wasn’t about to forgive the man who killed her daughter, Ella. Dottie prayed every night for the death of Earl Kegney, the man who got behind the wheel on his fifth drunk driving citation and blew her daughter into a mailbox.

At eleven o’clock in the morning, Earl left Eddie’s Wonder Bar all juiced up with fortitude, driving down the highway, without even pausing after he’d hit Ella. If it hadn’t been for a woman walking down to her mailbox to pick up that day’s mail, Earl might have gotten away with it. Wanda was able to make out the car and the first three numbers on the license plate. She had to run back to the house to call the police. By the time she made it out to the ditch, Ella was gone. Did she have any last minute words she wanted to share?

Wanda Wakefield was trained in first aid and CPR. Her job at the nursing home required it. She knew the first rule was to get help on the way before rendering aid. No one wanted to be in the position of giving CPR with no relief for the giver once the lifesaving measures were underway. Within two minutes, the administering person’s strength was depleted and now where would they be other than exhausted? So Wanda did as her training dictated: get help on the way first, and then render aid.

Wanda didn’t know when she started down the embankment who the young woman was because her face had been peeled off by the impact of being thrown into the Lehmans’ baseball bat-resistant mailbox. After several assaults to their box with kids and baseball bats, they spent the extra money.

Wanda lived two miles out of town on a state highway; she’d made the right decision to call for help because the police and ambulance came in a matter of minutes. While she could hear the sirens coming closer, she stared at the woman in the ditch; did she dare touch her? With all this hepatitis and HIV stuff? Wanda was not even sure what was broken; the woman’s neck? Her back? If she tried CPR, would that hurt the woman further? Her training did not prepare her for a faceless, broken woman lying in a ditch.

Thanking God, Wanda stepped back, ceding to the paramedics before she had to decide whether to render aid. The ambulance pulled up; Wanda secretly prayed that the woman wouldn’t survive. She couldn’t imagine what this young lady would go through without a face. How many surgeries would it take to restore her to a face that was something she could live with?

Dottie got the phone call from the police. They were transporting Ella Lamer to the hospital, hit by a vehicle on the side of the highway. Dottie called her neighbor. She knew she couldn’t drive herself to the hospital.

“Wanda, it’s Dottie. I need a ride to the hospital. It’s Ella; she’s been hit by a car.”

“No, it was Ella? Oh my God, Dottie. I didn’t know that. I called the ambulance. I don’t know if I can drive you. I saw the whole thing, but I will get Hal to take us. I’ll be right there.” Wanda called her husband who worked in town, explaining what was going on. He said he’d be right there.

When Hal and the ladies arrived at the hospital, a doctor came out to let Dottie know that her daughter was dead on arrival. They tried everything they could, but Ella didn’t survive.

The police came through the emergency room with an intoxicated man who was professing innocence. Dottie was bumped out of the way by the deputy who pushed the man’s arm back down to his side. She overheard the officer say to the nurse that they were coming in for a blood test.

“Blood alcohol content. This guy was involved with a hit and run.”

Dottie whirled around, seeing the man. Short, overweight, a little tuft of hair on his forehead, obviously three sheets to the wind this early in the day. She knew exactly who this man was.

“That’s him!” Wanda shouted. One of the officers left the group approaching Wanda.


“I called the hit and run in. He went by my house; that was the man driving the car. He was wearing a red shirt and a blue baseball cap, just like the one this man is wearing. I even caught the numbers on his license plate.”

Dottie screamed as she ran across the waiting room, where she attacked the short, balding man, raking her fingernails across his face, drawing blood in jagged lines.

“You killed my daughter!” Dottie was vicious in her attack before the officer was able to get Earl turned around. Another officer restrained Dottie after letting her get her pound of flesh.

Dottie cried all the way to her house; there was no consoling her. She was going to have to make plans for a funeral for her daughter. Wanda opted to sit in the back seat with her neighbor and friend; she held Dottie while she cried. When they got to Dottie’s house, Wanda looked at her husband with the silent look that passes between married couples. Hal imperceptibly nodded yes.

“Dottie, I will stay with you until Gilbert gets here. I won’t let you be alone tonight.”

Gilbert was home early the next morning. His Peterbilt truck pulled in the driveway. Dottie heard the truck and came screaming out of the house. Gilbert and Dottie clung to one another; between sobs, Dottie tried to get the story out, but he already knew their daughter was dead.

Earl Prince Kegney was convicted in a matter of months for vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence. His blood alcohol tested at a 2.0; he had no business being behind the wheel.

Wanda was an excellent eyewitness; she saw the car come around the sweeping corner and watched him cross the center line, striking Ella Lamer and pushing her into the mailbox. She remembered the color and make of the car and the first three numbers on the license plate.

“Did the woman say anything?” Wanda sighed. She knew Ella was dead, but this was a bone she could throw to her neighbor, perhaps easing her pain.

“Well, she was confused and out of it. I think she might have mumbled, ‘tell my parents I love them,’ but I couldn’t say this for sure. I think about that all the time because it was hard to understand her.” Dottie put her hands to her face and cried while Gilbert buried his head on her shoulder.

Eddie, the owner of the Wonder Bar, said he served Earl two drinks that morning. He wasn’t in the habit of over-serving, he added indignantly. He knew Earl had a drinking problem and had four drunk driving tickets. Eddie testified he told Earl he was cutting him off. Earl put up a big fuss but left the bar at 10:30 in a huff.

“He wasn’t drunk when he left my bar. Then I saw he took a bottle from somewhere, probably from under the seat. He opened that up and sat in the parking lot drinking. Then he left.”

The coroner’s report, the doctor’s report, the past records of Earl’s drunk driving records, and Dottie and Wanda’s testimony all swung the jury to reach the only verdict they could.

“Your honor, I just want to say that my daughter Ella has no years left. She was only 19 when Mr. Kegney decided to get behind the wheel for a fifth time that he’s been caught. It was bad enough he killed my daughter, but he kept going. He didn’t stop and render aid, he didn’t call an ambulance; he kept going. No matter how many years he gets in prison, it will be more years than Ella gets. The man is a menace to society, and I pray you give him the maximum sentence.”

Gilbert didn’t want to say anything more; he thought Dottie did a good job.

Earl Kegney was given 20 years. Not enough time for Dottie. Gilbert accepted what was given, for he was a Godly man, and the whole thing was a tragedy.

Dottie and Gilbert’s life settled back to the new normal, a strained relationship because what was lost between them would never be restored. Gilbert spent so much time on the road while Dottie lived with Ella. Dottie faced her time alone while her husband was gone. Gilbert offered to have Dottie come with him.

“What about the dog?” Dottie asked. He was a big dog, and a life on the road wouldn’t be fair to him. Dottie said she couldn’t give him away. She had lost too much already. Gilbert agreed with her. He tried to take shorter trips; they didn’t make as much money, but they didn’t need that much now that Ella wasn’t going to college.

Dottie’s neighbor Wanda moved away from the house next door a few months after the accident when their dog was almost hit crossing the highway. Wanda said that was it. They found a little place on a nice quiet country road. Wanda and Dottie remained friendly, but were never friends again. The emotional toll the accident took on their lives was too much.


20 years went by. Gilbert retired, Dottie and he still together. If it weren’t for their church, they wouldn’t have survived their marriage. The news that Earl Prince Kegney was getting out of prison was extremely upsetting to them. When Dottie thought about Earl paying the price everyday over the last 20 years for killing Ella, it was a bandage on her heart.

Dottie didn’t know how to feel if she were to see the man in public. Would she be able to keep from attacking him again? It was as if all the years she had dealt with her daughter’s death had not happened. The bandage had been ripped off and the scab had come off along with it.

Gilbert tried to soothe his wife, but there was no consoling Dottie. She was sated as long as Earl was behind bars. Now the man was free.

Free. While her daughter Ella rotted in a grave down the road, without a face. Dottie was incensed.

Choir practice ended early Wednesday night because of an incoming blizzard. Dottie was going home through the sudden onslaught of snow. The weather had turned dangerous in a short amount of time. She chastised herself for staying late to file away a few weeks’ worth of music into the file cabinet. She didn’t realize just how bad the storm was.

Dottie drove slowly through the blizzard when she spied a car on the side of the road not far from her home. The man was still behind the wheel. She thought that the accident must have just happened because the guy looked like one of the baritones in her choir. No doubt he was driving too fast because men tended to do that sort of thing.

Being part of a small community, Dottie pulled behind the car ready to render aid. When she got around to the driver’s side, Dottie was shocked to see Earl Kegney passed out behind the wheel of the car.

He’d been out of jail less than a month and was already drunk driving. Dottie was furious. This man was a menace to society.

She pulled her phone out of her jacket and was going to call the police, but something stopped her. She looked at that car still running and then at Earl’s head tipped backward over the seat with his mouth open, passed out. She hated this man with all of her being. She thought for only a moment.

Dottie scurried over to the ditch, scooping up a large handful of snow and packing it into the tailpipe of Earl’s car. She opened the trunk of her car and grabbed the snow shovel, the one Gilbert insisted she always carry in case she needed to dig herself out of a ditch, or if she couldn’t get out of the ditch to clear away the snow so she wouldn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dottie began shoveling the snow as fast as she could, building a hill of snow around the exhaust of the running car. She hoped that carbon monoxide would do the trick. She hated Earl Prince Kegney with everything in her being. Earl was a sick man, but Dottie wanted him to be a dead one.

Her lungs burned every time she brought a shovelful up from the ditch. The snow pile got larger; the car kept running. The sky opened, letting more snow come down all around her. She could barely see her hand in front of her face. She couldn’t even make out the highway in the headlights anymore through the snow that came down so hard around her.

Dottie’s cell phone flashed, letting her know that the county highway trucks had been pulled off the road until the snow stopped. They were in a snow emergency. She climbed out of the ditch and brushed off the snow shovel, putting it back into her trunk. She said a little prayer for forgiveness. Although she didn’t cause the accident Earl Kegney got himself into, she would end this madness.

Dottie got back into her car, amazed no one had come by, but who in their right mind would be out in this blizzard now that the plows had been pulled off the road?

The snow was so thick Dottie could no longer distinguish the highway from the shoulder of the road. She kept the low beams of her headlights on. The heavy wet flakes didn’t move with the windshield wiper.

Dottie crept down the highway with the defroster on high, her wipers on full power, and her emergency blinkers on. Gilbert came out of the house when she pulled in the driveway.

“I was worried sick! What happened?” Gilbert came out to hug her.

“This heavy snow came out of nowhere; you couldn’t see your hand in front of your eyes. I was just being cautious keeping one tire on the shoulder. It’s so thick. Luckily, no one else was on the road.”

Dottie thought about Earl in the ditch on the side of the road, hoping there was enough gas to do the trick. How long did it take to die of carbon monoxide, she wondered?

The thick coating of snow covered the trees and drifted over the highway when the plows were back on the road. Dottie looked out the window and watched them break through the drifts. She watched when an ambulance went by, and when Gilbert woke, they ate their breakfast at the table when he turned on the television. The reporter on Channel 6 stood in front of Earl’s car on the television screen.

“Over ten inches of snow fell last night in a freak blizzard in Caldwell County. The weather was so bad that snowplows were pulled off the road at about 7 PM last night due to treacherous conditions. This morning, the body of a man was found by a county truck driver in a car buried in snow. The man, identified as Earl Prince Kegney, was pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Kegney was just released from prison less than a month ago for vehicular manslaughter after serving 20 years for the hit-and-run death of a young girl named Ella Lynne Lamer. It appears that Mr. Kegney’s car hit the ditch at a high rate of speed; the police report showed impacted snow around his tailpipe was most likely the cause of his death due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The death is still under investigation. The sheriff’s department is reminding people to carry a shovel in their vehicles to remove snow near and around exhaust pipes of a running vehicle if you are stranded.”

“I’ll be damned,” Gilbert said, putting down his toasted hot ham and egg sandwich. “I’m so glad I make you carry that shovel in the trunk. What are the odds of that Earl Kegney died only a few miles from here?” Dottie pretended to be shocked for her husband’s sake.

“What are the odds?” she agreed wholeheartedly.

Dottie Lamer was not one of those fervent Christians who forgave the convict in jail who killed their loved ones. No; she wasn’t about to forgive the man who killed her daughter, Ella. Dottie prayed every night for the death of Earl Kegney, and her prayers were answered last night. Gilbert said he was going out to do some more shoveling. Dottie barely acknowledged his comment.

Watching her husband pitching snow out the picture window, she folded her hands to pray. She could only think to say the Lord’s Prayer, wincing as she got to the part that said, “As we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Earl Kegney got what he had coming to him. As far as Dottie was concerned, Earl’s death was a small bit of justice since her daughter Ella  and Earl left this world dying on the side of the same highway only a few miles apart. You reap what you sow, the Bible says.