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Prosecutors won’t seek felony in fatal crash; family speaks out

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: May 02 2013 03:10:51 PM MDT
Updated On: May 02 2013 11:05:21 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Missoula prosecutors decided against felony charges for the woman suspected of running over and killing 18-year-old Hellgate High senior Chance Geery.

Since breaking the news, responses have poured in to our Facebook page.  People are upset and angry, some even saying they want to hold a protest.

Prosecutors tell us the alleged driver of the vehicle, 38-year-old University of Montana assistant professor Yoon Hee Cho is now facing a misdemeanor charge for Chance Geery's death.

NBC Montana spoke with his father Thursday evening and got his reaction to the charge.

Chance's father Todd Geery told us his son wanted to grow up and work in law enforcement; he sees irony in that because today he believes justice failed his son.

“If I ever looked down and said ‘I have no idea what I did and I don't know what happened,’ I certainly wouldn't get some kind of reduced charge, or some kind of minor misdemeanor for that kind of a defense,” said Todd Geery.

18-year-old Chance Geery and his girlfriend Gabrielle Rosier were walking down Mullan Road in early April when Chance was struck by a car and killed.

“Supposedly she acknowledged seeing Chance and Gabby walking down the side of the road and next thing she knew, she hit something and didn't know what it was,” said Todd Geery.  “If that was the moment that she chose to close down the window, why?”

“Why would you see people on the side of the road and choose to look away from the road at that time and then it not be considered negligence?” said Geery. 

He tells NBC Montana he’s outraged.

“It's horrible when you sit in there and listen to the most influential people in the law part of town sitting in this room saying there's nothing we can do about it,” he said. 

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg held a press conference in Missoula Thursday afternoon to review the misdemeanor charge.  He told us he met with the Geery family Wednesday to brief them on the charge. 

“We explained all of this to them at the time, it was a very difficult and trying session, but I believe in the end they understood that the burden of proof in this case was too difficult to meet in terms of prosecuting Ms. Cho for negligent homicide,” said Van Valkenburg. 

Geery says he still doesn't understand.

“You’re leaving the message in people’s heads that it's OK to kill someone so long as they haven't been doing drugs or drinking or you’re not on your cell phone,” said Geery. 

Geery says life without his son will never be the same.

“You think about the missed opportunities and the plans that you had that you put off that you could have done,” said Geery.  “I think about the man he was becoming and the man he'll never be and you realize you miss more and more and you wake up every day thinking it was a dream.”

The Geery family is putting together a college scholarship fund in Chance's name.  We'll bring you the details about that when we learn more.

Van Valkenburg tells us Cho will be in court sometime in the next few days facing her charge, we’ll be there and let you know what happens.