Father spreads message after daughter killed in crash involving drunken driver

Houston PD made far fewer DWI arrests in 2016 than in 2012, data shows

By Shannan Adler - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - Eric Stephens and his family were driving home along a road they had driven countless times before. It was July 2014. His wife's scream was his first indication this drive was different.

"All of a sudden, I hear my wife scream my name. I wondered, 'Why is she yelling?'" Stephens said.

Inches from his driver's side door was a white Ford 350, and then he felt the impact. Stephens and his family were spun around violently.

When the car stopped spinning, he turned to check on his 10-year-old daughter in the back seat.

Jade Stephens had been celebrating her 10th birthday that day with her family and friends. They were on their way back from her birthday party, which was held a few blocks from home. She was a big girl now and had proudly told her father, "Dad, I'm turning 10 years old. I'll be turning double-digits."

Jade will forever be 10 and the baby of the family. Eric Stephens' nickname for Jade was "Queen." That day, Queen lost her young life to a drunken driver. Her little-girl's room remains unchanged. Stephens walks in and still smells her clothes. They are a comfort to her heartbroken father.

The Stephens share their grief with other local families who have lost someone irreplaceable. In Houston alone last year, 112 families lost loved ones to drunk driving, which is a preventable tragedy.

Law enforcement agencies are on the front lines of the battle for sober driving. The Houston Police Department made far fewer DWI arrests in 2016 than in 2012, according to data provided to Channel 2 by the Police Department.

In 2012, the Houston Police Department logged 6,586 arrests. In 2016, the number dropped to 4,465, up slightly from 2015’s 4412.

What accounts for the 32 percent drop? The Houston Police Department said a combination of education and new effective deterrence measures, most notably 24/7 "no refusal," a policy that mandates a suspect's blood be drawn if he refuses a field sobriety test.

"I think some of that has finally started to take effect and that's why we see some of the numbers going (down), just because people are becoming more aware of some of the penalties," Houston Police Department Senior Officer Don Egdorf said.

The man who killed Jade Stephens the day of her birthday party is in prison. Eric Stephens has made it his mission to educate others about drunken driving.

Channel 2 caught up with Stephens at a Westfield high school in Spring as he took part in an alcohol prevention program called Shattered Dreams, which aims to educate high schoolers about the dangers of alcohol. He believes deeply this is what his baby girl would want.

"She doesn't want another little girl to lose their life, and a father and a mother and sisters and brother to hurt, like this family continues to hurt," Stephens said.

He walked to the stage and within minutes, had the rapt attention of hundreds of high school students. He owns the room with his story and message. It's an almost impossible feat to accomplish with a young crowd.

He will always be Jade's father and told KPRC 2, "When you lose a parent, you lose your past. When you lose a child, you lose your future."

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