For the drunken driver and the parents of the woman he killed, $1 a week is the price for getting on with the rest of their lives. "I told the kid face-to-face, if you want to get on with your life and never see me again, just put a dollar in the mail every Friday," said Louis Herzog. Susan Herzog was 18 when she was killed on New Year's Day 1982. Kevin Tunell was 17, so his case went to Juvenile Court where he was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving.
Louis and Patricia Herzog filed a $1.5 million suit against Tunell but settled for $936, to be paid $1 at a time to remind Tunell what he had done to their daughter. Tunell, now 26, keeps missing his payments. The Herzogs keep taking him to court.
He was sentenced Thursday in Fairfax County Circuit Court to 30 days in jail for contempt because he has not lived up to his agreement to make the weekly payments. Circuit Judge Jack B. Stevens allowed him 30 days to appeal.
Testifying Thursday, Tunell said he is haunted by Susan Herzog's death and tormented by the payments. "It's like I'm not purposely not writing them because I want to defy the court and I'm trying to hurt the Herzogs. I just don't feel good. It hurts," he said, weeping.
This was the fourth time in eight years that the Herzogs, both active in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have been to court trying to enforce the dollar-a-week agreement.
As his criminal sentence, Tunell was ordered to spend a year talking to groups about the evils of drunken driving. He completed that sentence, he said, and continued to campaign against drunken driving for the next six years. Tunell declined Friday to talk about the case. "I think it's pretty evident what's going on. I think people will understand why I don't want to talk," Tunell said by telephone from his parents' home in Fairfax. "I just want to get on with my life."
Tunell's lawyer, Stan Klein, also declined to answer questions but read a statement. "Kevin and his family hope that this tragedy of over eight years ago can be left to the families that have suffered as a result of it, as they will have to continue to live with it for the rest of their lives," the statement said.
The $1 payments are due each Friday because Susan died on a Friday. They began in 1982 and will end in 2000 _ one year for every year Susan lived. The agreement specifies that payments are to be made by check made out to Susan Herzog. Her parents deposit the money in a scholarship fund at Virginia Tech, earmarked for students from Robinson High School, where their daughter was a senior.