Justice for Katherine Bryan Hoover and Baby Rehlin
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On July 26, 2014, my 25-year-old daughter Katherine Bryan Hoover and her husband went to visit her husband's friend, 35-year-old William DeHayes, at his home in Brooksville, Florida. During their visit, DeHayes decided to show off his gun collection. His subsequent recklessly negligent actions would prove fatal to my daughter, as well as to her unborn son, Rehlin. My devastated family and I are seeking justice on their behalf.
Here's what happened that horrible day. When DeHayes began showing off his gun collection, he checked the first several guns to ensure they weren't loaded. But when he pulled out his .22 caliber revolver, he neither checked to see if the safety was on, nor if it was loaded--an act of complete and utter negligence.
While showing off this unchecked .22 caliber revolver to his visitors, DeHayes began twirling the revolver in his hand like a gunslinger, in an incredibly cavalier manner ("kinda like a cowboy would," he later told police). He was pointing the revolver in Katherine's direction. The gun was cocked and loaded. As DeHayes twirled it on his finger, it discharged, shooting Katherine in the head.
Katherine was rushed to the hospital, where she died a few hours later. Doctors delivered her unborn son, Rehlin, via emergency C-section, but as he was only at 5 months' gestation, he lived a mere 30 minutes before dying, as well.
My family and I are bereft at these senseless, tragic, and completely preventable losses.
I rushed to the hospital to be at Katherine's side, and I cannot tell you how traumatic the entire experience was. I've never seen so much blood before in my life as I did that night. Watching my baby girl leave this world and remembering the joy of when she came into this world, I thought I was going to die right there beside her. I begged and pleaded with the doctors to save her, even though I knew in my head that they couldn't do anything for her. My heart just couldn't accept it.
Katherine also left behind a beautiful little boy, Nicholas, who is 6. He will have to endure a lifetime without his loving, devoted mother--all because of DeHayes' negligence.
Making matters worse, because investigators say that Katherine's death was due to an "accidental shooting," they have declined to charge DeHayes, despite the fact that drug paraphernalia (specifically, a bong) was at the crime scene--and despite the fact that DeHayes essentially admitted in his interview with the Hernando County sheriff to a pattern of negligence. According to a recording of his interview obtained by the Daily Beast, he told the sheriff:
"I haven’t slept in three days trying to figure out how the hell [the gun] went off. I don’t know. I mean them damn guns. The shotgun goes off when it wants to. I almost blew my damn head off twice."
Excuse me, but shotguns don't go off when they "want" to. Shotguns go off when their owners are negligent. Full stop.
Despite this damning evidence of repeated negligence, and despite the fact that there are children in DeHayes' home who might be at risk, officials not only refused to arrest or charge him: they also gave him his guns back, without so much as a slap on the wrist.
I am shocked, appalled, and devastated at how the judicial system has failed us. In fact, I feel like I am going crazy. How is it that DeHayes' right to own and play recklessly with his guns trumps my daughter's right to life? If a person drowns a dog, charges are filed. Is not my daughter's life, and that of her baby, worth more than that of a dog? How can this be?
Please, help us secure justice for Katherine and Rehlin. Please prosecute DeHayes for involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and/or other appropriate charges, and give him a trial before a jury of his peers. As his pattern of recklessness demonstrates, he is a menace to society. He deserves to be prosecuted for his unconscionable actions that proved fatal to Katherine and Rehlin.
Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,
bereaved mother of Katherine Bryan Hoover
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