Driver who killed Vernal teen while texting, driving gets prison time
Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
VERNAL — He was born Thomas Lavelle Clark, but to those who loved him, he was simply "Tommy."
"Tommy's initials say everything," the teen's grandfather said Monday.
"They were T-L-C," Don Kirkwood continued. "Tender. Loving. Child."
"The. Last. Clark, in his blood line."
"The. Lost. Child."
Tommy died Sept. 3 at Primary Children's Medical Center, one day after the 15-year-old was hit by a pickup truck about 9 p.m. as he and a friend walked along the unlit shoulder of 500 West near 1200 South in Vernal.
The driver of the truck, Jeffery Lloyd Bascom, told witnesses and police he was distracted by his cellphone and never saw the boy, who was wearing a neon yellow sweatshirt when he was struck.
"What was on his phone was more important to him than the human being standing on the side of the road," Uintah County prosecutor Mike Drechsel said during Bascom's sentencing hearing Monday.
"The only person that could have prevented this from happening is the defendant," Drechsel said. "He is 100 percent to blame for the death of Tommy Clark."
Bascom, his head bowed, appeared to nod in agreement with the prosecutor's indictment. He also wiped away tears as Tommy's grandfather and parents, Tom and Evie Lesser, addressed Judge Douglas Thomas.
"What remains in this box is all I have left of my son," Tom Lesser said, his hands resting on a dark brown box holding Tommy's ashes.
"I talk to (the box). I hold it. I cry over it all the time," he said. "I will never see my boy grow up."
Evie Lesser described her son as a protector of his younger brothers, a trusted confidant to his friends, a natural athlete and a talented musician.
"He had no fear," she said. "He did it all."
Tommy was also a forgiving kid, his mother said.
"He would forgive (Bascom)," she said, "I can't. I simply can't."
Defense attorney Loni DeLand told the court Tommy's death has deeply affected Bascom, leading the 29-year-old to engage in what he called "the most self-destructive behavior imaginable."
"He's wished he had taken his own life and not Tommy's," DeLand said, adding that his client had successfully completed a drug treatment program one year before the crash, but began using drugs again after Tommy died.
In April, Bascom was arrested and charged with possession of spice. He pleaded guilty one month later only to be charged with joyriding after police said he stole an ATV from his parents, drove it as fast as it would go and crashed it.
The crash left Bascom with a broken jaw, which was still wired shut Monday, preventing him from making any statements in court.
"He knows he needs counseling for two things," DeLand said. "He needs more drug and alcohol counseling, and he needs counseling to deal with what he's done, to deal with the fact that he killed Tommy Clark."
Bascom will have to get that counseling behind bars. Thomas sentenced him to serve up to five years in prison for causing Tommy's death, with a concurrent six-month term for possession of spice.
At the request of Tommy's family, the judge also ordered Bascom to take part in a public service campaign about the dangers of distracted driving.
"What we really want out of this is for (texting and driving) to stop," Tommy's grandfather said outside the courtroom. "We don't want this to happen to another family."
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