Marc Sterner was on campus Thursday night to tell his story about the Spring Break that involved plenty of alcohol, ended in tragedy and paved the way for three years in a maximum security prison in Florida.
Sterner, a convicted felon who killed three of his friends while driving under the influence of alcohol, spoke to an audience of about 40 people in the Lory Student Center Theater. He was brought to campus by the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, Timberline Church and the SAM Spady Foundation in an effort to educate students about the dangers of driving drunk.
Samantha Spady, a CSU sophomore, was found dead in the Sigma Pi fraternity house Sept. 5. She died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of partying with friends.
Sterner began his presentation by showing a homemade video of the night that the accident happened. He and his friends, who were on Spring Break in Florida during their senior year of college, made the video as a way to remember their last night of vacation.
The video shows five friends as their night of partying progresses. It begins with the five men taking shots at their condo and then shows them driving at speeds of up to about 100 mph to the bar. The movie ends with all five men dancing and singing at a bar.
After the movie ended, the story continued as Sterner came back on stage dressed in an orange prison uniform and related his story.
"We were on vacation and each night someone took a turn as the designated driver. There were six nights and only five of us. We had all had a turn as the D.D. and no one wanted to miss out on the last night of partying so we decided that the least drunk one would drive us home that night," Sterner said.
After a heated conversation at the end of the night, the five friends decided that Sterner was the least drunk so he would drive them home.
"The next thing I remember – it was two weeks later and I woke up in a hospital bed, confused," Sterner said. "My brother told me that I was in a car accident and I had killed three of my best friends."
His friends Aaron, Jim and Pete were killed in the accident. Sterner and Darren, another one of his friends and the other passenger in the car, were the only survivors.
He explained what was going through his mind after hearing the news.
"I was only 21 – you don't die when you are 21. Old people die, not 21 year olds," Sterner said. "We were having fun and you are not supposed to die when you are having fun."
After hearing of the death of his best friends, Sterner's situation only got worse.
"When I didn't think it could get any worse, two police officers walked in my hospital room," Sterner said. "They read me my rights and arrested me as my family watched. The maximum sentence was 45 years in prison."
Sterner was convicted of three counts of man slaughter, and after serving his three years in prison he was sentenced to 12 years of probation. He will be done with probation on Nov. 16, 2010.
"Darren was the only survivor. Because he was a passenger there were no charges filed against him. He refuses to talk to me anymore," Sterner said. "He was my best friend in college. We were roommates our freshman through senior years in college and pledge brothers."
Sterner regrets driving drunk and wants students today to be careful not to make the same mistake.
"Maybe you're cooler, maybe you're smarter, maybe you're luckier than we were, but maybe you're not," Sterner said. "More passengers die from riding with drunk drivers than do drunk drivers. Think about that before you get in a car with a drunk driver."
Many audience members could relate to Sterner's story and listened carefully to his advice.
"Everyone feels invincible when they are in college, but stuff happens when you do something stupid – no matter how strong you think you are," said John Yost, a sophomore speech communications member.
Chuck Knotts, a freshman management and finance major, said he will remember Sterner's speech next time he goes out.
"It definitely opened my eyes. You have to be safe when you go out and party," Knotts said. "There is no question that I will look back and reflect on this next time I go out."
The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, the fraternity next door to Sigma Pi's former house, got involved in alcohol awareness education last fall when the Sigma Pi Fraternity house was bought by Timberline Church.
"Last semester people from the Timberline Church were walking around the Sigma Pi house. Since they are literally going to be our neighbors next year we thought we would get involved in educating the public about alcohol," said Matt Sartin, a sophomore restaurant and resort management major and the public relations chair for the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
Pi Kappa Phi has not made any plans to continue to work with the SAM Spady Foundation or Timberline Church, but they are not opposed to the idea.
"In the future it would be nice to continue to work with the SAM Spady Foundation. Our goal with bringing the speaker to campus was for students to learn through someone else's experiences and apply them to their own life," said Patrick Pollock, a junior finance real estate and business administration major and president of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.