As long as I walk this earth, I will never forget the exact moment, 11:45 p.m. June 1, 2013, when the call came in. It was Chanel Fugnetti with news that just moments earlier, Kelly Blue Morehouse had succumbed to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident that evening.
It's the kind of news that sucks the air out of your lungs, and immediately you go into shock, then denial. No way. Not possible. You come to the horrible realization that it has to be true because Fugnetti, the daughter of legendary U.S. Open announcer Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti (who spells his last name differently than his daughter), delivered the news.
Fugnetti was Morehouse's closest friend. If ever two childhood friends were joined at the hip — they finished each other's sentences and spoke first and last to each other every day — it was Fugnetti and Morehouse, each wishing the other sweet dreams and a good night.
"Love you, love you too."
Fugnetti said her final good night to Morehouse. One last good night, sweet dreams, and then goodbye to the dearest friend she would ever know.
Morehouse was killed by a drunk driver while riding on the back of her fiance's Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Her father, Bill Morehouse, said at one of the many memorials honoring his daughter that she was the happiest she had ever been in the moment when, according to police reports, Tadashi Mizutani turned directly in their path.
Mizutani had been celebrating his 69th birthday. According to police reports, he never saw Kelly and her fiancé, Taylor Rolfson, go through the light on Goldenwest Street. He was attempting a left turn, and apparently they got in his way.
Morehouse and Rolfson were both thrown violently off the bike. He broke both legs, and she went to heaven a few hours later. Mizutani was arrested at the scene but made bail. The injustice did not stop there.
Mizutani, of Huntington Beach, was in court for sentencing last month, days before the one-year anniversary of the collision. His family was there. Morehouse's family was there, along with a group of Kelly's close friends from Huntington Beach High School and the Sugar Shack cafe, where she had worked.
Orange County Superior Court Judge William Evans sat on the bench that day.
Each family had the opportunity to present an impact statement, detailing how the horrible accident had affected their lives. A full account of the pain, anguish and eternal heartbreak the Morehouse family has suffered can be read on the front page of the June 5 Huntington Beach Independent.
Mizutani, after consideration of his age, family hardship and lack of a record, received one year in county jail and three years of probation. He had faced a maximum of seven years and eight months in state prison, the Independent reported, quoting what the district attorney's office had said.
One year has passed since Morehouse was taken from this world. The circumstances surrounding her death were horrific enough, but what transpired just days before the anniversary cannot be ignored.
There comes a time in one's life when a call to action, a need to change the rules, becomes an obsession and you know it's your responsibility to say, "No, I will not accept such an injustice."
You feel rage and anger and know that it cannot bring the person back, but there must be consequences so severe that the punishment for the crime will stop the next perpetrator from making the same mistake.
Stiffer penalties, no bail, mandatory jail time of 10 years, financial restitution and a charge of second-degree murder are what the law should require of drunk drivers who kill. Forget involuntary manslaughter because, in my view, killing a person with your car after drinking is anything but involuntary.
I'm angry as hell. Next time it could be your son, mother, father or daughter.
I am writing this letter to every parent, child, mother, father, human being that is as angry and disgusted as I am. Don't let Morehouse's untimely death be in vain.
I am currently working with columnist Chris Epting, various lawmakers and anyone who demands that the laws be rewritten to enforce such severe punishment.
We want justice for Morehouse through the creation of "Kelly's Law." Please help in any way you can. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will update our progress as we go.
We won't let you down, Kelly Blue.
ANDREA HANST is a Huntington Beach resident and writes an occasional surf column for the Independent.