An open letter to the dishonorable Judge Charles Atwell

On October 31, 2009, Kenneth Scott Blake II attempted to drive home drunk from a party. Lost and in a stupor, he turned down the wrong way of a divided highway. Head on, he collided with a car in which my sister was a passenger. He killed her that night and injured the other two girls exactly one mile from where I grew up, where my sister lived with my mother. He had been warned of doing these things just like all kids are these days and he had a cell phone available with which to call for a ride. This was not an inevitable accident; this was a criminal action that could have been prevented. B-Felony Manslaughter is what it was according to the state you serve. Nearly two years later on August 26, 2011 you broke our hearts by suspending his manslaughter sentence as if Laura never even existed. In so doing you:

  • Made Blake immediately eligible for parole after just two years in the county jail
  • Revoked our status as victims per the Missouri Department of Corrections
  • Removed our family’s right to speak at parole hearings
  • Punished Blake for hurting the two surviving girls and made it so he is not spending time for killing my sister
  • Removed the only sentence with any mandatory serve rules
  • Blake will be released in November of 2013 after serving four years for assault

Judge Charles Atwell

We have been at a complete loss to comprehend your leniency to Laura’s killer. To you, Blake is just a young man who made a mistake. To us he is a nightmare pariah, a destroyer of life itself and of Laura’s dreams. Although the state prosecutor recommended a face sentence of 25 years you only gave Blake six years for the lesser assault charges, making him immediately eligible for parole. Six years is very misleading since he will serve no more than four years before being released. Can you imagine what it’s like to be informed of something like a drunk killing your immediate family members on Halloween night or what it’s like to live with it subsequently? Could you ever conceive of the outrage one feels when a judge like you suspends the manslaughter sentence for the man who killed your 16-year-old sister or daughter allowing him to be immediately considered for parole? Do you know how paltry of a sentence four years is for killing a kid? You knew exactly what you were doing, we just do not know why.

You can deny it all you want but if this had been your relative, your decision would have been different. In fact, you could not convince me the outcome would be the same if Laura had been related to anyone noteworthy. What is worse than your actions themselves is the impunity with which you operate. You can literally do this to homicide victims all day long with no repercussions that I can think of. What a powerful man one becomes with the addition of a black robe. Your ascension to the bench, physically several feet higher than anyone else in your court, must place you in very thin air for you to fret for the well-being of a homicide offender while his victim’s mother cries right in front of you.

After your warped decision, the prosecutor and victim’s advocate kept reassuring us that the parole board would consider what we said when evaluating him for parole. I know they meant well but in reality only the two injured girls could go to Blake’s parole hearings. Laura’s family was made to stay home and be unconsidered because you suspended the sentence for killing her, removing our claim to any justice. I do not honestly know that it mattered considering Blake only has to serve four years even without parole. I have credit cards in my wallet that expire long after Blake will be set free. My family has spent countless hours dealing with this for the last two years and the whole system just keeps becoming more injurious. You are a roadblock to justice rather than a facilitator.

Judge Michael Manners

I had my doubts all along but it was the afternoon of Friday, March 11, 2011 that I became very uncertain that Missouri’s criminal justice system would take my sister’s killing seriously. I received a call from the prosecutor explaining that judge Michael Manners had recused himself, literally in the last business hour before the plea/sentencing of my sister’s killer. The reason: Michael Manners used to be a legal partner in my sister’s killer’s defense attorney’s firm. The fact that judges are routinely assigned cases in which they had close business partnerships with the defense is bad enough. That one would try and hold onto a case until the last hour is plain disgusting. This was just an omen of the terrible outcome that was coming. It’s how the law works; I don’t understand. I know; I know Charlie.

By March 11, 2011 we had already waited a year and a half for resolution and justice but Judge Michael Manner’s highly suspicious fumbling only caused us to wait another six months. I was slightly reassured and assumed that some semblance of justice would be carried out when I heard you, the presiding judge of the 16th circuit, Charles Atwell, would be keeping this case. We spent more hours updating our victim’s impact statements. Future tense was transitioned to present tense as Laura’s would-be prom, graduation, and other dates came and went while we waited. My family was blown away at your sympathy for Kenneth Scott Blake II the morning of Friday, August 26, 2011. To this day I shake with rage when I think about you and your concept of “justice.”

After so much preparation, anxiety, and writing, we showed up at the courthouse to have our only say through victims’ impact statements. We victims assembled on one side of the courtroom and the offender’s family on the other. Blake was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter for killing Laura and two counts of assault for injuring the other two surviving girls who were in the car in which Laura was riding in the front passenger seat. The only charge that carried a mandatory sentence was the manslaughter charge for which offenders must serve 85% of the face sentence in Missouri. On this day Laura’s killer was to plead guilty and you were to decide his sentence as opposed to a jury. A total of 29 years would have been the maximum sentence of which the state prosecution was recommending 25. You made a point of claiming to have made no preliminary sentencing decisions beforehand.

The first thing we noted about you that gave us pause was that some lady interrupted court simply to let you know you had illegally parked. How nice is it that judges get a second-chance to park before their cars get towed? In response, you literally threw your keys to your personal clerk or whoever he was and uttered something along the lines of, “Move my car for me.” There was definitely no “please” in the statement you barked and no gratitude when the task had been completed. We had been there not even 15 minutes and I was already getting a bad feeling about the sentencing.

The first obvious impartiality we noticed was that we had prepared thoughtful, heart-felt, victims impact statements, which generated no immediate comment from you after their presentation. However, when Blake’s family stood up and made weak, unsupported claims that  “Kenny deserved another chance” and “wasn’t known to be a drinker,” you congratulated each of them for their courage. One young lady even claimed Kenny was a good kid because he held her on his shoulders at a concert! At that point we felt as if Laura’s family were the aggressors, the antagonists, and the people who were there to defend the man that killed my sister were the impoverished, disenfranchised, and valiant protectors of innocence.

After a break, you came back and spent all of a half an hour building us up to let us down. Considering you claimed to not have arrived at a decision prior to that morning, it was odd that you already had developed a PowerPoint presentation outlining previous sentences for similar offences. In said PowerPoint you explained how you sentenced the wrong-way, drunk-driving, prior-DUI-convicted, Christmas-Day killer of an entire family (including an infant) to something like 15 years in prison. That was one of the three examples you gave as a baseline of “justice.” It made me sick and you should be ashamed of yourself for not passing down maximum sentences for an individual who destroyed an entire family on Christmas day. I could tell at that point you were a defender of the offender and not an upholder of justice. I immediately wondered if your legal experience prior to judge had been primarily as a defense attorney and my suspicions were confirmed after a little research later on. I suppose a man has to justify defending killers like Kenneth Scott Blake II in order to fall asleep at night and those justifications carry into your decisions as a judge. Somehow methinks that were a convicted DUI offender to drive down the wrong side of an interstate and kill you and your entire family, you would desire a harsher sentence than 15 years.

You held us captive and with no forum for rebuttal justifying what you were about to do. During that period you held that you had to consider the effect of a prison sentence on Mr. Blake. Funny that this came to mind without considering the effect of a head-on collision on Laura’s future or her family’s. You also made mention of Blake’s age without giving Laura credit for being over three years younger than her killer. Another injustice came as you decreed that you knew the victims did not believe Blake to be remorseful but that you disagreed.

You also addressed our concerns about witness reports of Blake attempting to restart his car after killing my sister. It was something along the lines of, “What we have here is a guy that didn’t ever drink and then drank a lot. He didn’t know what he was doing.” That’s quite an interesting take on things considering that day you just accepted a guilty plea from Blake for driving his car drunk down the wrong side of a highway and killing my 16-year-old sister. Does not the law of Missouri hold offenders accountable for what they do while drunk or can I just go swill some rum and show up at your house judge? If he was not prone to drinking then for what reason were we in your awful courtroom? Blake should have retained you as council as you did a better job than his own.

You specifically requested Blake’s educational level and gave him credit for achieving a high school diploma. At no point did you inquire as to why Blake graduated from an alternative school with the following mission, “The mission of Valley View High School is to develop personal, academic and social skills in students who are deemed to be at risk of dropping out of high school. These skills will enable students to become effective communicators, to become productive workers and citizens and to develop successful careers.” It’s nice you gave credit for Blake’s barely achieving a minimal, token, free, public education but did not consider the fact that he drove without insurance or that Laura had been taking classes for college credit for a while. I know, I know Chuck, he wasn’t charged with driving without insurance and judges don’t take victims’ education into consideration when sentencing their killers.

As you read the sentence I heard, “12 years for manslaughter” which made me initially hopeful since that charge carried a maximum of 15 years. We all slumped after hearing the word “suspended.” You literally suspended any sentence Blake might serve for manslaughter, the only charge related to his taking my sister’s innocent life. You gave concurrent 6-year sentences for assault, which carry no mandatory sentence rule. Blake’s reaction on his Facebook wall, depicted below, shows how serious he takes this sentence for “manslaughter.” Since Halloween, 2009, there is no admission on said wall of what he is in jail for. Clearly this is an offender who takes responsibility for what he did. I’ve also included his dad’s reaction to the parole rejection. I know being classless, terrible, people isn’t illegal, but I just want you to know the type of people you sided with. Again though, you knew exactly what you were doing.

We were left in disbelief that day. You said Blake had no priors so you had to give him the benefit of the doubt. That type of thinking is what permitted Clayton Dunlap to accrue 16 driving revoked charges before killing 12-year-old Damian Slayton while driving high as a kite. That went down in your circuit as well. Not only do people regularly kill others in preventable drunken accidents, but wrong-headed judges like you are there to look out for them, making sure they get a second chance to do this to a family if they have not yet done so. Sure there are plenty of educational programs like DARE, commercials, and billboards but in all actuality, these crimes are considered accidents. The state wishes to appear tough on drunk driving but that is far from the case. Missouri’s civil and criminal treatment of this type of thing is a joke. Many other states are the same way.

We were left crying, wondering if you have a drunk-driving son or daughter, wondering if something in our letters set you off, wondering how you could do this to us. Laura’s killing is but an accident to those like you that are supposed to apply the law to protect society and punish wrong. I know you are not a big enough man to step away from the shield of law and own your actions and I do not want an apology from you anyway; it would not do me any good. I am sure your retort would be that this is a common thing to do. Cite your references then. How many times do Missouri judges suspend manslaughter sentences like this. Furthermore, what is the ratio of suspended manslaughter sentences to reasonable 8, 10, 12, even 15 year manslaughter sentences in situations like this? All I want to do is to expose your derelict sentencing and if only a dozen people read this and think, “Wow, what a mother@%#$ of a judge!” then I will be content. Secondly, people are generally hesitant to call judges out so this will live on the internet forever, and if I can get enough other sites to link to me, maybe someday this page will be the top  result when someone Googles “Judge Charles Atwell.”

 

22 thoughts on “An open letter to the dishonorable Judge Charles Atwell

  1. Dear judge you may have your reasons for your actions but they are not acceptable. I live in Little Rock Arkansas these days and I know Jake well, just so you know I lost a person I worked with Sunday night she was the cashier at our company cafeteria, killed by a drunk driver, she was 60 and a nice little old lady always with a smile. You seem to think that age, not imparment is an excuse, well you are wrong!! I am very happy that you are not in this state to allow this injustice to go unnoticed, I would never hope that the same thing happens to your family that happened to Laura, but if I were the judge and your 16 year old daughter was killed by a drunk driver I would make sure I would not treat you and you have the Reynolds family, remember sir victims and their families have right to, please look in the mirror and if you are ok with it then I am sorry for you and will pray for you as I have the Reynolds family, Bob

  2. What a disgrace to the criminal justice system, what a misuse of power, what a sad excuse for a “man”. How can anyone truly trust our judicial system with scum like this biased pathetic pig gloating in the light of power. I am so sorry for your loss, may her wonderful soul light the way for a strong impact and a difference to be made.

  3. I’m from Missouri and these actions are not surprising. Hurtful yes. I only hope Karma roles around for you “your highness” what a joke.

  4. I have worked every day with Judge Atwell for the last 16 years. We have had many sad, tragic cases in that time, and Judge Atwell has proven himself repeatedly as a person who can consider all the factors involved in a case, weigh it all, and render the fairest judgment a person possibly can. He has a brilliant legal mind, and his integrity is beyond reproach. Words cannot express how sorry I feel for your loss.

    • Nancy,

      I believe your endorsement of Judge Atwell is misplaced to say the least. Your opinions on his “brilliant mind”, “proving himself repeatedly”, etc. provide no useful context to this situation and no comfort to the Reynolds family. Not to mention the fact that you are hardly an objective party considering you work for Judge Atwell.

      The facts are that Judge Atwell arbitrarily suspended the sentence for most critical offense in this case and as a result, the Reynolds family received no justice for their loss. Even after years of fighting for it.

      If you think otherwise, I ask you to take a moment to stop and think about how you would feel if one of your own children or siblings was killed due to the actions of another person, and their sentence was suspended. If you can honestly say you would be fine with that, you are lying.

    • Nancy, the problem with judges like your boss is that they are always “beyond reproach.” I’m bringing reproach to his integrity. The fact is, when Atwell had a choice of sending Blake to prison for anywhere between 0 and 15 years for killing my sister, Atwell chose 0. How can you possibly consider this fair and what factors were there for him to weigh? His silence speaks volumes. Your condolences are vapid and empty when uttered after defending this scumbag’s decision. “I’m sorry your 16-year-old sister was killed by a drunk driver but I support this brilliant judge’s decision to let the drunk driver off the hook for doing so.” How cruel and snarky of you Nancy Fox.

      • Ok lets clear the air. Blake didnt ‘kill’ anyone. They were involved in an accident… An unfortunate one.

        • Monica Davis,

          Then why was he convicted of manslaughter? It’s called a homicide. Let’s be really, really clear: You’re spending your work-day defending the drunk driving killer of my sister, writing on my website, lying, the day after the third anniversary of your boy KSBII killing her. I wonder what your boss at “The Whole Person” would think of your wasting company time. People like you…. It takes a unique type of scum to call a drunk driver who KILLS A CHILD going the WRONG WAY DOWN A DIVIDED HIGHWAY, an unfortunate accident.

    • Of course Nancy. Your hands are probably forced to write such things. Your proverbial heart knows that the words you type are not correct. But, I’m sure you need your job. However, I am quite pleased to see your response…simply because I know Charlie has seen this article and website. Truly makes me happy to know that he knows. If you would like to peer into our souls to understand our bone piercing pain, please watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL0Rarq7uxk&feature=player_embedded. If you would like some additional reading material, please visit http://www.lbrun.com. If Laura were yours Nancy, your response would be unequivocally opposite of the present.

    • Save it Nancy, for the Judges own “Judgement Day”, except, at that event, you will not be able to spew your ignorant tripe.

  5. Jake and Jessica,
    I am going to post your letter on my facebook page and encourage all of my friends to share and post it. Maybe if everyone does that, then more and more people will see the miscarriage of justice that was served your sister and family. This is just wrong. No other way around it. WRONG! Stay strong and persistent.

  6. I have read your website sir, GOOD FOR YOU! Only in this country can someone like this piece of crap walk free, the slimeball father really takes the cake, appears he is or was a firefighter? No remorse shown by this person? He should know better as I am one also. I have over twenty-seven years of dealing with aftermath of drunk drivers and I have no sympathy for senseless acts of murder because that is what it is. When someone is well aware DARE of what drinking and driving can do! I applaud you sir in exposing the unremorseful pieces of crap and his family, I would in your case request the attorney general to investigate possible corruption or any relationships to the family? I found your website after hearing the news story on NBC 41 I also applaud their reporting this and making the public aware of your web page. pray the God will with his divine power seek you comfort for you and your family. As for the Kenneth Blake II and Judge Atwell God will be the final judge. May God grant you and your family comfort and peace. God Bless

  7. This is EXACTLY why I am phobic of courthouses. Can you even call it phobia if your fear is grounded in reality? People in prison, even death row for things they haven’t committed and people walking free after making a knowing decision to do the wrong thing and end up with the results that have been put in our heads over and over and over by every adult.
    He knew what he was doing, the problem was that Laura did not know what he was doing because he didn’t ask her if she felt like being killed by a drunk driver that day, who would get away with it. With a judicial system like this, I guess I can do whatever I want and not worry about consequences. This makes me sick, it does. and what about when he INEVITABLY does it again? He will, people always do when they have no consequences. That’s the point of having consequences, so you wont’ do it ever again. He’s got no reason to listen. Even after his own actions spell out a disturbing lack of sympathy or remorse. So I’m gonna come right out and ask it… who bribed who here? and how much money does it take to get away with it?

  8. What a smug pompous ass, I have never posted a comment on any site ever, but I was so infuriated by the story of this judges lack of human empathy and uncaring scumbag ruling, I really felt the need to. Judge Atwell, how can any man with such “character” show such dishonor for the judicial system. There is no doubt that Blake will drink again, and there is no doubt that he will drive drunk. We will all have to answer to the “Highest Order” someday, and yes, Judge Atwell, you will be judged on your transgressions, but you being so “humble” and self righteous, you probably believe your sentence to hell will be “suspended”. Jake, God Bless you and your family, I will tell everyone I know to read this story, and hope someday “Atwell” will be a synomous term for toilet paper.

  9. Wouldn’t everyone just love to slap that disgusting smirk right off of Judge Charles Atwell’s perverted face? Satan called and he is getting your suite all ready for you Charlie. He hopes you like warm weather. And he said to bring along your bro in crime, Michael No-Manners as his initial wussy action, enabled you to hurt this poor family. His true justice will be done.

  10. I am so very sorry for your loss. There are simply no words, I can’t imagine your pain. This judge is an idiot. It’s beyond my comprehension why judges cannot be held accountable for decisions like this. Having worked in the judicial system for many years, I have witnessed first hand the total disregard for victims and families and the pompousness of judges as they render decisions and then go on their way. We need to have court watch programs in every courtroom, and hold these people accountable with our votes. I can’t imagine there would be ANYONE who would be OK with a drunken dirtbag like this guy going free, and with the ignorant judge who gave him his freedom. I am going to share your story with everyone I know as well. Someday, this judge will have to answer for his actions, as will the scum that took the life of your sister. God bless you and your family….

  11. Pingback: Missouri: Bozo Judge allows Kenneth Scott Blake II to skate on killing Laura Reynolds as he drove his Halloween party death ride in wrong-way head-on crash | DWI Hit Parade!

  12. dear mr jake reynolds i dont apreciate some of your rude and digusting comment you have said to the blake family im sure u are not an angel urself u creep . i know for a fact that his dad preached about drinking and driving u dont even know this man so y in the hell would u slander someone you have never met the kid is a good kid he made a bad choice that night if anybody was to be riddicule is the adult tht provided the alcohol she should be the one doing time too instead they gave her a slap on the wrist probation they shouldve made an example out of her adults buying alcohol for minors……. so tjhink about that jack ass!!!!

    • “i dont apreciate some of your rude and digusting comment you have said to the blake family im sure u are not an angel urself u creep”

      What rude and “digusting comment” are you talking about? I’m not an angel but I’ve never sent someone’s child to the morgue in a body bag either.

      “i know for a fact that his dad preached about drinking and driving u dont even know this man so y in the hell would u slander someone”

      He must not have preached enough. How have I slandered him? How friendly would you be with your sister’s killer and his family? Do you want me to invite them over for dinner guy? You want me to sing Kumbaya with them around a campfire?

      “you have never met the kid is a good kid he made a bad choice that night”

      I’m sick of hearing baseless comments like that. Clearly your definition of a good kid is quite a bit different than mine. My sister Laura was a great kid. I’d love to see your reaction to someone else’s choice which ended in the death of a 16-year-old you loved, you hypocrite. Would you say, “Give him some slack, it’s his first time killing someone.” Bet you’d get all frothy about it, demand blood, all that stuff. But you’ve never felt that sting my friend, yet you judge me, the victim’s sister for simply making public what happened to my sister.

      “they gave her a slap on the wrist probation they shouldve made an example out of her adults buying alcohol for minors……. so tjhink about that jack ass!!!!”

      The judges gave both of them a slap on the wrist. 4 years for driving backwards down a highway and killing a girl while injuring two others? Why couldn’t both of them serve 15 years? What would you want if someone you loved were killed by an idiot like Blake? 4 years good with you?

    • Jon Doe really. You are such a coward. Blakle made a mistake? He kill someone nutball. How about I run your ass over and we call it a mistake. Sound good to you loser.

  13. Jon Doe really. You are such a coward. Blakley made a mistake. How about I run your ass over and we call it a mistake. Sound good to you loser.

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