Mary Eggers


My thoughts on the Heather Boyum Trial

The last time I saw Heather was at the Rochester Kid’s Triathlon. She came bounding up to me beaming with pride, talking a mile a minute about how her 7 year old son was going to shadow another boy through the race that day. Think about that for a moment. Talk about a proud moment as a mother. Not only was her son competing…. at the age of seven he was already acting as a guide for someone else.

Heather 1

That’s how this family is. You before them. It’s in their blood. It’s who they are.

As we parted ways she grabbed me and said “Oh I just have to HUG YOU!” and I looked over her shoulder at her husband who was smiling himself. I remember thinking….  Heather I have never met anyone as excited as you are about life. And I will forever regret not saying that to her that day.

When news came the next morning that she had been killed it was more than a kick in the stomach for those of us who knew and loved her. As news trickled in as to HOW she was killed. Car and motorcycle. Both drunk. Hit by one and thrown into the path of the other. I remember grabbing something to hold myself up as I thought…. this can’t be happening.

It happened. It happened in the cruelest possible way.

For the past few days that feeling has returned. First with the Merkel verdict….. or rather non verdict. Then with the Scerbo joke of a verdict. Merkel walks free. Scerbo … while he gets a guilty verdict… it’s not the most severe one … which he deserved.

Reports began to swirl about Merkel…. allegedly calling local media and offering an interview for cash. Thank you to all of the medial professionals who quickly let us know: we don’t pay for interviews. No deal. If it’s true that she’s looking it’s completely smashed the hope that the second chance she has been given will actually hold.

The worst came at 9:30 last evening when Evan Dawson and Sean Carroll from 13 Wham News secured an interview with the jury foreman. I again have to thank these guys… and many others for their tireless reporting from the courtroom. Through Twitter they have allowed us to follow along closely. We appreiate that more than they understand.

The jury foreman stated

  • the prosecution didn’t prove that Scerbo drove drunkenly. Recklessly yes, but they needed more.
  • witnesses said Scerbo was popping wheelies & swerving with intention, no alcohol on his breath, no slurring of speech…
  • Had he known of Scerbo’s criminal history, he may have reached a different conclusion.
  • As we saw it, .18 BAC was enough to prove DWI, but we needed more evidence to go with aggravated vehicular homicide…

With all due respect to the foreman and the jury….. because I understand that your job was unthinkable and difficult. It was clear that you took a good amount of time to do what you believed to be right. But there is one thing that really stands out to me…. and this was not your fault.

Had he known of Scerbo’s criminal history, he may have reached a different conclusion.

Why does that stand out to me? Because this is Scerbo’s FOURTH DWI. The jury was not allowed to know that. From what I understand….. please forgive me and correct me if I am wrong….. but it was the judge’s decision to not allow Scerbo’s previous criminal history to be presented to the jury.

*** I did recieve some clarification on this, which was very appreciated. As I understand it… and please…. leave a comment below to correct or clarify further…. that there were certain parameters in which the pror DWI’s could have been presented, however those were not met. And as I understand it…. it wasn’t that the judge said “Hey, no way can this be included.”. I think as I stated it above I made it sound that way. Judges of course have far better and more intricate knowledge of how exactly this works…. much better than I do. I think it’d be helpful to really understand how that process works (again…. comments welcome below)….. but I do not intend to place blame on a judge who is someone I truly do respect and believe is the kind of man who does the right thing.

As you remember Scerbo had been let out of jail twenty days previous to the day he killed Heather Boyum.

How on this earth…. is that not important to what happened?

I am just a regular girl…. I did not go to law school. But I don’t think it takes being valedictorian of Harvard Law to see the great big hole that exists right here. Clarification on how that happens is extremely welcome.

To me the most IMPORTANT piece of evidence is that this was a fourth DWI. And that 20 days passed between the release from jail and the killing of Heather Boyum. I don’t understand how that is NOT important.

That is not the only thing that was not allowed into evidence….. but in my opinion the most critical.

Devastated….. isn’t the right word. Disappointed…. is not strong enough. Stunned…. doesn’t even cover it. If you look back through the year at the big DWI cases that have occurred in this area:

Buffalo: The Corasanti case. You will need to sit down to be reading this one.

The man who hit Kevin Royston, left him for dead and took one of his legs…. actually pleaded guilty and that’s the only reason he’s in jail… had Mr. Royston not lived to tell…. who knows where this would have ended up.

Heather and her brother Graham

Heather and her brother Graham

I am very sure there are many more.

The fact that Scerbo had been in jail THREE TIMES ALREADY…. is enough to prove to me that the consequences of driving drunk…. are meaningless.

Heather’s husband Eric has shown more grace, courage and strength than I could ever be capable of. How this family has held it together through testimony that made me scream out loud is a statement to who this family is.

Click here for the full interview with Mr. Boyum. You will watch that and see for yourself the kind of people the Frazer / Boyum family are.

I have no words. My faith continues to hold on by a thread. I have lost faith in our justice system. The jury did the best they could with what they knew…. and again forgive me if I am wrong…. correct me if I am wrong… but an elected judge got to decide the pieces of what they knew and what they didn’t. Which all circles back to the loss of faith that our system is fair and just. Because if you step back and look at all of this…. it’s so obvious that fairness and justice in this state …. don’t even exist.

There are two children…. young children who have been without a mother since July 29th. It’s a hole in their life they will never be able to repair. Their mother was taken from them in a horrifying manner. The people who took her…. don’t really have to pay the consequences. Merkel got a clean slate and a fresh chance.

Heather never stood a chance. Her kids don’t get to have that chance.

When is Heather’s second chance?

As the anger has risen to the surface this week….. I keep asking myself…. what would Heather do if she were here? What would Heather do? And I hate the answer because all I want to do is fight and scream and be angry. I think Heather would be the calming force. The one who puts her arms around every single person involved in this case. And she would find the good in it. Right now it’s absolutely impossible for me to see ANY good in it. She would.

Heather 3

Because that is who she was.

The best way I can honor her is to do my best to do that too. Right now I am incapable. Maybe tomorrow…. or the next day….. or the next god willing.

On July 29th we all vowed to institute change. Much has been done….. but not enough. Now that this trial has ended we have more fuel to our fire. We just need to figure out what we are going to do and how we will do it.

Until then…. we must remain Heather Strong. Like she was. Like her family is. That…. no one can take away from us.

I think a lot about the last day I saw her. I can still hear her voice, I can still feel her hugging me.  I can still feel the excitement about life and the love and pride she had for her husband and her children. She just wanted to live every moment to the very fullest.

She did.

14 Comments My thoughts on the Heather Boyum Trial

  1. Cheryl Grimins

    I’m so sorry for everyone’s loss. I’m also sickened by the legal system. My heart and prayers go to all of you in your community. God Bless.

  2. c

    I’m no expert, but the Federal rules of evidence (I realize this comes from federal ruies, and not specifically NY Criminal law – but the states tend to codify the federal standards) appear to have clear cut guidelines…

    From Federal Rules of Evidence:

    “(b) Crimes, Wrongs, or Other Acts.

    (1) Prohibited Uses. Evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a person’s character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character.”

    I’m not saying its right, just saying the judge may have rules as he did, based on well established legal precedent.

  3. Haley

    I applaud you Mary Eggers for putting these words together. This is undoubtedly the exact sentiment of most or all people who have been in a situation where the law (although necessary and in some cases helpful) has let them down and failed to bring any justice for the innocent. Things need to change. I get the need to treat every incident on a case by case basis, but when there is a pattern, much like in pedophile crimes etc, you should allow these into evidence. Most offenders repeat! Especially drunk driving cases and child abuse cases. I’m sickened by the verdicts and I will pray for the healing and futures of her children, family, and for you-her dear friend.

  4. michelle

    You put into words so perfectly what we are all thinking. Someone needs to be held accountable for the horrible tragedy. It makes me sick to my stomach..

  5. Matthew Burke

    The reason his prior criminal history was not presented is because it has little basis on his guilt in the incident. There is no doubt as to whether or not he was driving that vehicle under the influence. Whether or not he’s driven drunk in the past doesn’t matter here. The jury’s job was not to figure out if he was or was not driving drunk – he was. NOW, during sentencing, his prior history will definitely come into the picture, as the judge can show that his behavior has not changed and can invoke a harsher sentence

  6. Kimberlee laBell

    Heather was my best friend in high school. Thank you for your words. You eloquently wrote exactly what I am feeling.

  7. Karen

    Thank you for sharing and expressing your thoughts so eloquently. It served as therapy for me and hopefully you and others. I live in the same town as Heather’s parents and know them well. I just don’t know how they have held up under these horrific circumstances.

  8. Lauren lombard

    Thank you for taking the words right out my mouth and i agree with all that you just said 110 per cent. I an disgusted. They might as well gave them a drink and keys before leaving the courtroom.

  9. Angela Gazzara

    I am so sorry for the angst (anger + stress) you are ALL going through. The legal system does not work which is evident and it never will until the judges themselves become victims and it is their personal family that suffers a direct blow and loss. I feel your disappointment, but I also feel your passion and conviction. I would STRONGLY suggest that you not stop here and have this story broadcast on CNN, 20/20, Nighline, anyone who will take it. There are plenty of hungry reporters out there who would love to sink their teeth into this compelling story of much-loved heroine taken before her time and a failed court hearing. That might even get the case re-opened and if not, it will provide the exposure to destroy those 2 vultures before they take innocent lives. I’ve learned over the years after my own failed efforts with the legal system that there is a stronger force, the MEDIA. Use it, they can sometimes move mountains. Good luck!!

  10. Laura @losingrace

    I did not know Heather but I believe my Fiance had met her a few times (some of the MIM’s were gracious enough to help run him in during IMLP 2 years ago). Since the accident we have followed pretty closely with the trials and everything surrounding it. We even have a good friend who is an ADA who could explain things to us (neither John or I have a legal background). The Merkel verdict made me mad BUT there was a small part of me that said “if I was driving would I have time to react?” but then I KNOW that she should have never been driving in the first place so I think the verdict was horrible and that she should not be free right now. As for the Scerbo Jury…I’m pissed, I’m overwhelmed and I don’t get it. People get off way too easy these days for horrible crimes and I hate it, I too have lost faith in the legal system. I don’t understand how the jury would not be allowed to know his history (like you said, critical information)…When EVERYONE knew his history because it was released to the public when the accident happened! Change needs to happen, a persons DWI history should absolutely be allowed as evidence in cases like this, something needs to be done!

  11. Virginia Teeter

    I’m not sure how this story got put on my facebook page as I dont know the person that sent it. I typically delete things from those I dont know. But something impelled me to read your story..That was very well written and brought tears to my eyes. My daughter Heather Teeter was killed crossing the street after getting off work. The driver had drugs and alcohol in his system. Forensics says he was doing 64 in a 40. The driver not only never served a day in jail but never even got a ticket. He said he didnt see my daughter because she was wearing black pants and a dark blue shirt. She was crossing at a bus stop.I was told by someone that the driver was an off duty police officer but that never made the papers..Your description of Heather Boyum sounded so much like my 23 year old daughter that life will never be the same again without..My heart and prayers go out to the Boyum family.

    1. Mary Eggers

      Thanks so much for sharing this experience Virginia. I don’t know how you have picked your life up and put it back together after your loss. You are amazing.

  12. Stephanie

    A beautifully written tribute to Heather Boyum. Unfortunately this case hit close to home for me as I am both a graduate of Fairport high school and now a young criminal defense attorney. One point you touched on in your tribute particularly stood out to me and I wanted to comment briefly on it. People seem to be having a hard time understanding why the judge didn’t allow the jurors to know of Scerbo’s prior DWIs. You wrote you didn’t understand how his past criminal activity was not important enough to be included in the trial. The problem is just the opposite, that it was too important, too prejudicial, too similar to the charges Scerbo faced at trial. Generally, the law will not allow these prior similar criminal convictions or bad acts to come into evidence at trial because the risk that the jury may make a snap judgment and decide the case solely on this evidence and ignore everything else is just too great.

    I will certainly not pretend that the criminal justice system is a perfect one. Far from it. But there must be protections for both the victims and the accused. This is a harder virtue to swallow when the crime hits so close to home. Make no mistake, Judge Randall will make sure Mr. Scerbo serves his time and plenty of it.

    Rest in peace Mrs. Boyum.

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