Jaimie Cogswell still misses her friends.
Cogswell, Jennifer Neddo and Elizabeth Phillips were hit by a drunken driver the morning of Aug. 10, 1995, while walking along Hollow Mill Road (6730 South).Neddo, 16, and Phillips, 16, were killed.
Cogwell, now 19, has spent the better part of the past three years in doctor's offices and surgery recovering from her injuries. Her last physical therapy appointment was just nine months ago.
"I still have some jaw problems, but everything else is fine," the University of Utah sophomore said Tuesday.
But she isn't angry at Laramie Huntzinger, a Brighton High School classmate who was driving the car.
Last week Huntzinger, 19, was released from the Decker Lake Youth Center where he had lived since his De "It takes too much energy to be angry at people," said Cogswell, who is preparing to leave for a year of study in Wales. "I hope he gets on with his life."
Huntzinger was convicted of two counts of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced by a judge to spend up to 36 months in custody. He was also ordered to undergo alcohol and drug counseling and serve 300 hours of community service through public appearances.
Huntzinger was 16 at the time of the accident. He was behind the wheel of his mother's car, even though he didn't have a driver's license. His car struck the girls while traveling about 72 miles per hour. The car then careened through the backyard fence of Paul and Sherrie Kasteler, 6736 S. Benecia Drive (2710 East).
Tests indicated Huntzinger's blood alcohol content was 0.11. In Utah, a driver is considered impaired once the blood alcohol measures 0.08.
In his first six months of lockup, Huntzinger had a rocky start because of depression, said Stephanie Carter, administrative officer of the Youth Parole Authority.
But continued therapy and time helped him.
"I think what really happened is he came to grips with what he had done," Carter said. "The first few months he had a hard time focusing on what was going on. He was kind of in shock from the whole event, as well. To Decker Lake's credit, he got 2 1/2 years of good therapy."
He advanced six grade levels during his three years at Decker Lake and scored well on the SAT, Carter said. He was also deemed sensitive and articulate enough to act as a peer mediator to help other teens with communication and coping prob-lems.
"You have to have a core value of sensitivity to mediate somebody, and despite this awful, egregious thing he did, he was still a very sensitive, bright and articulate kid," Carter said.
Three years ago, the Youth Parole Authority started a victim notification practice. Huntzinger's was the program's first case in which a victim attended hearings. Phillips' mother, Mary, was invited and attended every one of Hunt-zinger's hearings, which were held every six months.
"I was there to ensure that someone who had killed people with a car was treated the same as someone who had used a gun or a knife. I think people still have a tendency to treat it differently . . . It is not an accident, it is a crime," Mary Phillips said. "My second goal was to ensure that out of this whole experience, this whole nightmare, our tax dollars didn't get wasted and that someone maybe came out a better person."
During his time at Decker Lake, Huntzinger was granted a special court order to speak to high school students about drinking and driving by the parole authority. "He had to show some exceptionally stable behavior before we would risk taking him off (the campus) to do that."
The first 90 days of his release from Decker Lake are considered a "transition" period in which Huntzinger will continue to meet with his parole officer and receive therapy, if he needs it. He will live with his father while on parole, Carter said.
Carter said Huntzinger has dealt with issues, including pain in his own family and the pain he caused the families of his victims.
If he commits a new crime, he will automatically be sent to the adult system. However, if he doesn't obey the conditions of his parole, it could be revoked and he could be sent back to Decker Lake until he's 21, Carter said.
But Carter is optimistic that Huntzinger has dealt with his troubled past, and despite the acts he committed as a 16-year-old and the notoriety of his case, she's hopeful for his future.
"I just wish his name wasn't Laramie Huntzinger. It would be a lot easier if his name were Joe Smith or something," Carter said. "But I think he has the skills to make it back."
Mary Phillips said she is pleased with the way the youth authorities have handled the whole process.
"I think the youth authority has been very responsible in the way that they have released (Huntzinger)," Phillips said. "This is not just release. He has to work his way back in . . . I think they are setting him up for the best possibility of success."
On the outside, at least, Huntzinger appears to be a different young man than the one behind the wheel that day three years ago, she said.
"I can tell you that when we went to the initial court hearings, he was portraying himself as someone who did not commit this crime . . . that has switched to where he portrays himself as an individual who is taking reponsibility for what he did and who is sorry."
But Phillips, who has talked at length with Huntzinger, is a lot more interested in actions than words. The boy, Phillips said, was an "absolute loser" at the time her daughter was killed. Now he has a chance to be a positive and productive member of society.
"I think the only reasonable course here is to have something happen here that is good," Phillips said. "But show me your remorse not by your words, but by your actions. I think that's fair and reasonable."