Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 25, 2013

Woman sent to prison for collision that killed child

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The family of four-year-old Gavin Punter waited almost 11 months for an apology from the woman who struck and killed their son on a Leelanau County road.

The apology never came, not even on judgment day.

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers on Monday sentenced Gertrude Ann Shorter, 63, of Kasson Township to a minimum of 16 months and a maximum of 60 months in prison. Shorter drove on South Lakeshore Drive in Centerville Township on July 22 when she left the road and hit Gavin, of Allendale, who was visiting his grandparents at the time.

“More than anything, we wanted a sorry and we wanted to grieve,” said Gavin’s mother, Kaitlin Dereski, who attended the sentencing. “We were all very shocked that there was no remorse on her part.”

Dereski said Shorter’s family offered their condolences, but Shorter never said anything to the family.

Dereski read from a letter that she and Gavin’s father wrote.

“The letter states how much this is going to harm us for the rest of our lives and how we were blessed to have him in our lives and what a great kid he was,” Dereski said.

Gavin Punter was riding his tricycle on the paved shoulder of the road as his grandmother walked beside him when Shorter’s minivan left the road and struck him. She initially stopped and got out of her car, then left the scene. Sheriff’s deputies stopped her a short time later.

“It was one of the most tragic factual situations I have ever been involved in in 42 years,” said Robert Moir, Shorter’s attorney. “It has left my client stunned; not the sentence, but that she has been involved in this horrible accident.”

Moir declined to comment on the sentence.

Doug Donaldson, Leelanau County assistant prosecuting attorney, said Rodgers had a tough sentencing chore.

“It’s always tough when you have somebody with no prior record to mete out an appropriate sentence,” Donaldson said “I think the judge had a difficult job and he did it well.”

Dereski said the sentence was fair, but she’s still stunned that Shorter was charged with leaving the scene of an accident instead of killing her son.

Dereski said prosecutors told her about blood test results that showed Shorter was on a powerful pain killer for a medical condition at the time of the incident, but they determined it was not a factor in the crash. Dereski disagreed.

“I know her levels and statistics that say it’s OK to drive and her doctor said it was OK to drive, but that’s like saying a person who has tolerance to alcohol is OK to drive,” Dereski said. “I just don’t think it’s fair.”