Young Victim Faces Defendant

July 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Stripped of his sense of smell, his sight in one eye, and some of his hearing, 14-year-old Dallen McEntire talks directly to one of the men accused of being involved in the hit and run boating accident that sealed his fate.The accident happened on Shaver Lake almost three years ago, when McEntire was 11 years old. Thomas Kirby pleaded no contest to being an accessory to the crime after he was accused of covering up evidence tying his friend, Roger Guzman, to the crime.

Guzman was sentenced to two years in prison, but Kirby got off with no jail time Wednesday, leaving a taste of disappointment for the McEntire family.

Dallen McEntire asked a judge to severely punish Kirby for his role in the boating accident. "I think the men should have to go to jail for a long time because I have to live with this forever," he said.

Prosecutors say Kirby was a passenger when Guzman drove the boat into McEntire, leaving the boy with what doctors called "a crushed bag of potato chips" where his face had been.

"Well, it got me from [the right side of my skull to just below my left eye]. And it got my hand and a little bit [on my side]. I can't smell and I can't see out of my left eye," said Dallen.

Dallen's medical care has cost upwards of $1 million and his family says they've lost $80,000 in unpaid expenses. "The financial burden is huge," said his mother, Lynn McEntire. "The emotional burden is just indescribable."

More importantly, in addition to his left eye blindness, the right eye is getting worse, and his future that used to be so clear is now out of focus as well. Dallen said, "I wanted to go to the Army and maybe even be a firefighter, but now I can't because of my eye," he said. "Now, I don't know what I'll do when I grow up."

"Dallen's dreams are now just that: They're dreams that are simply unachieveable," said his father Jeff McEntire.

Kirby has never accepted responsibility for the crime. He says he knows in his heart he's not to blame. "You can't change what you know is in your mind's eye and in your heart simply to satisfy someone else," said his defense attorney, Roger Nuttall. "It would make this a joke."

But before his sentencing Wednesday, he made an emotional statement sympathizing with the McEntires. "I'll never forget what we saw that day," he said. "All I can do is say I helped the way I could."

Kirby may be haunted by what he saw that day. For Dallen McEntire, the ghosts stare at him in the mirror every day. He's already been through a series of surgeries to put his face back together again and he has many more still to come.

The former honor student now struggles with concentration and needs an instructional aide just to get by in school. The soon-to-be freshman in high school says a lot of kids make fun of him at school.

Even as he faces a life of surgeries and sneering, he's too polite to say anything mean to the men held responsible. When Action News asked him whether he had anything say to Kirby, he demurred, saying "Yeah, but I probably shouldn't say it."

Dallen is two years away from driving age, but he says he probably won't have good enough vision to get a license.

Judge Wayne Ellison gave Kirby three years of probation and ordered him to pay the McEntires for their unpaid expenses. At $500 a month, he'll be paying them for more than 13 years to cover the $80,000.

Kirby's attorney says he'll appeal the restitution order.

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