The Trial

As the legal sentencing of the truck driver who hit Jamison’s family was being planned, the parents were allowed to write a letter to the judge giving their input regarding sentencing.  Following are the letters written by Jamison’s parents, Rick and Kathy.

Letter to the Court by Rick Pals, father of Jamison

I want to thank the Court for allowing me to speak. Thank you, to all of those who took care of our family and the others at the scene and afterwards.

On Thursday, July 28 at 7:53 pm I texted Jamison. “What time do you leave tomorrow? Will be praying for safe travels.” At 8:52 pm, Jamison texted back. Planning on leaving mid-morning. Thanks Dad! Love you.”  On the morning of Friday, July 29 the family loaded into the van in Wayzata, MN and drove to Orange City, Iowa.   There they stayed on the farm of Jenni and Jesse Kroese, Jamison’s cousin. They spent the rest of that day on the farm. Violet fascinated with the cows and Ezra climbing on every piece of machinery the farm had to offer. On the morning of Saturday, July 30 the family once again loaded into the van and left for Carne, NE. There they stayed in a hotel and enjoyed some family time at a waterpark. On the morning of Sunday, July 31st the family loaded into the van for the last time, to drive the last stretch to Colorado, where they would complete their last four weeks of training before moving to Nagoya, Japan in October. There they would join a team at Christ Bible Institute. Years of preparation finally coming to fruition. At about 11:30 am local time, the van came to a stop in a construction zone near Bruhl NE. At that time, a semi rammed into the back of the minivan at 60 mph.   Jamison Brownlee Pals, 29 years 4 months 18 days; Kathryne Lucille Pals, 29 years 7 months 23 days; Ezra Adoniram Pals, 3 years 8 months 14 days; Violet Joy Pals, 23 months 12 days; Calvin Boaz Pals, 10 weeks 1 day:   All died at the scene.

That evening around 7:00 pm I received a call from my oldest daughter Malia.   “Dad???”  “What Malia, what’s wrong, what happened?”

“Jamison has been in an accident.”   There was a short pause. “There were no survivors.” “No, Malia, that can’t be right. There must be some mistake.”

“No, Dad. They are all gone.” Each family member has their own story of how they heard the news.  I struggle to find the words that describe the grief that gripped me. It was unrelenting anguish. I didn’t know that grief could be so intense and so constant a companion. I get up every morning and go to bed every night knowing that I will not see them again in this life. I will never again hear Jamison say “I love you Dad.” I will never again watch Kathryne lovingly nurture her children. I will never again work on a project with Ezra. I will never again see Violet running to me with her arms wide open. I never did get to see Calvin roll over, sit up, crawl, walk or talk. No more birthdays with them. No more anniversaries with them. No more holidays with them. No trips to Japan to see them.

Despite the anguish, there were other words that came to me. Words like forgiveness, mercy, and hope.   FORGIVENESS In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray and in the prayer, he says “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”   and he follows that with   “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The Apostle Paul instructs us in Ephesians “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I can honestly say, Tony, that both families have forgiven you and have expressed that openly. I know how much God has forgiven me. How can I not forgive you? MERCY In Luke 6, Jesus says Be merciful, just as your Father (in Heaven) is merciful.” In Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” I am not in the position of authority to extend you mercy. However, I can request mercy for you. Your honor, I ask that in your wisdom, knowledge of the law, and your experience to also consider mercy in the sentencing of Tony. HOPE Were it not for hope, I do not believe I would be in this life anymore. But I do have hope. Our families have hope. And what is that hope in? In John 11:25-26 Jesus tells Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”   In 1 Peter 1, Peter tells us Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. In Revelation 21, John is told “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” That is why I have hope. I will see them again and get to spend eternity with them. The grief is very real, but it is temporary. The hope is even more real, and it is eternal. Thank you again for allowing me to speak. I leave you with those three words: FORGIVENESS MERCY HOPE

As Rick read his letter in the court, in front of Tony, the judge, lawyers, other offenders and their families, it was reported that there was not a dry eye in the room.

Kathy’s letter to the Court.

To Whom is May Concern:

I am the mother of Jamison Pals, who was killed in a tragic accident on July 31, 2016. He, along with his wife Kathryne, and my precious grandchildren, Ezra, Violet, and Calvin were some of the most generous, humble, godly people I knew. As a mother, I was by no means perfect and claim no credit for the beauty in Jamison’s character. In fact, as he grew up and lived at home, he struggled greatly with anxiety and depression. Once he began college, I believe the Lord Jesus Christ got a hold of him and changed him completely. Having lived so long with his grief and depression, Jamison developed a heart for the down trodden and felt called to go to Japan to work with those who were strong candidates for suicide, which is so prevalent among young adults in Japan. After spending years preparing and raising 100% of the support monies needed, their family was traveling to their final training in Denver prior to leaving for Japan.

While stopped in the construction zone, they were hit by a truck driven by Tony Weekly and were consumed in an unquenchable fire. Rick and I have watched an hour long video from the policeman’s car that showed the van being consumed in explosions and fire. We have seen pictures of our precious son and his wife, sitting in the van, burned and scorched. We have heard the story of those first on the scene… I have wrestled with the questions of how God could allow such a death for those who loved Him so much, and come up with very few answers which satisfy. Jamison and his family only wanted to serve and obey God, telling those who didn’t know Jesus, how much He loved them. Through unbelievable media coverage and God’s answers to our prayers, many around the world have heard about the God we serve and are giving their lives to Jesus. Many missionaries have committed to going to Japan, or are now there serving. We see good out of this situation, but it does not erase the fact that daily our hearts break and find little comfort, as we think things like, “Oh Ezra would be almost 6 now and going to first grade.” Jamison’s children’s only cousins on our side of the family, now have no other cousins except a baby adopted this year.

I believe that Tony Weekly had no intention of killing six people the day he struck our children’s van. I have also heard via the chaplain who visited him in jail in Ogallala, that Tony was remorseful and had given his life over to the very God our children served. I know that Jamison and Kathryne would gladly have given their lives if it brought others into the kingdom of God. We, the parents of Jamison and Kathryne, have forgiven Tony from the beginning. Though he is responsible for whatever distraction caused him to hit the van, I believe that knowing one has taken the lives of six people (another person died as a result of the accident) is a great burden to bear. The knowledge will most likely haunt and traumatize Tony the rest of his life, as it will our lives. I would like to request that sentencing of punishment for Tony Weekly be minimal. I do not know what is appropriate for this type of crime, but trust you to make the right decisions.

Sincerely,   Kathy Pals

 

Star Tribune 2018 Article

http://www.startribune.com/a-twin-cities-family-forgives-neb-judge-gives-6-month-term-to-trucker-who-killed-5/489128701/?om_rid=1593574857&om_mid=103377353

A Twin Cities family forgives:

Nebraska judge gives 6-month term to trucker who killed 5

 

By Paul Walsh Star Tribune, July 25, 2018

Thanks to a Minnesota family’s forgiveness, a truck driver who triggered a distracted driving crash in Nebraska that killed five of their family members will serve just a few months in jail. Tony Weekly Jr., 55, of Baker, Fla., was sentenced in Keith County District Court on Friday to six months in jail and two years’ probation for the crash nearly two years ago in an Interstate 80 construction zone near Brule in western Nebraska.

With credit for 30 days he’s already spent in jail, Weekly will serve five months behind bars starting Aug. 3.

On July 31, 2016, Weekly smashed his semitrailer truck into the back of the Pals family’s minivan while on his hands-free phone and reaching for a drink, according to prosecutors. Jamison and Kathryne Pals, both 29, died in the five-vehicle pileup, along with their children: Ezra, 3; Violet, 23 months; and Calvin, 2 months. The family was about to move to Japan to work as Christian missionaries and were heading to Colorado for a final training session. The crash also killed another motorist.

Weekly pleaded no contest to three felony and four misdemeanor counts.

 

Tammy Bain, Omaha World-Herald

Tony Weekly Jr. speaks Friday at his sentencing in Keith County District Court.

Prosecutors had sought a much tougher sentence. But Cedrick Pals, Jamison’s father, spoke during Friday’s sentencing and asked Judge Richard Birch to show mercy for Weekly. “I struggle to find the words that describe the grief that gripped me,” said Pals, who lives in Hugo, reading from his statement. “I know how much God has forgiven me. How can I not forgive you?” Pals said there are three words that come to mind: “Forgiveness. Mercy. Hope.”

Weekly wept during his own statement in court, the Omaha World Herald reported, saying there are some days when “I can’t go to work.” After sentencing, Pals and Weekly met outside the courtroom and embraced.

Signs of forgiveness from Jamison Pals’ parents were evident within days of the crash. His mother, Kathy, said that she was saddened to hear that Weekly had been charged, saying that it would be hard enough for him to live with what he had done.

Witnesses said that Weekly’s semi was speeding in the construction zone and didn’t slow down before impact, according to the charges. The force pushed the family’s van into three other westbound vehicles. Both the van and the truck burst into flames. Besides the Pals family, 56-year-old Terry Sullivan, of Denver, was in another vehicle caught up in the mayhem and died days later.

The Pals met at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, an evangelical Christian college in Roseville. In the months before the crash, they had given away or sold most of their belongings in preparation for the move to Japan, which was expected to happen in late October. They moved out of their Minneapolis home and in with Kathryne’s parents in Wayzata, where she grew up. They were given the assignment by Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

The young family had been planning the move for a couple of years and made multiple treks to Littleton, Colo., for training with WorldVenture, a Christian mission agency. They tracked their preparations on a blog called joyofjapan.org, where they wrote expansively about their faith and family.

Jamison Pals graduated from Centennial High School in Circle Pines, then Northwestern and received a Master’s degree from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul. He worked as a grant writer for Feed My Starving Children in Eagan. Kathryne Pals graduated from West Lutheran High School in Plymouth before getting her degree at Northwestern. She intended to teach English to preschoolers in Japan.

pwalsh@startribune.com 612-673-4482 walshpj

 

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