DES MOINES, Iowa — A woman who caused a fatal car wreck that killed a Des Moines man in front of his son will see jail time.
The crash happened in January on Grand Avenue when 32-year-old Grant Stokka was driving his 8-year-old son, Ezekiel, home from church.
Tessa Mullen pulled out in front of their car causing him to swerve, go over a barrier, drop several feet and land upside down. The crash killed Grant and injured Ezekiel.
“But after they fell 18 feet and landed upside down, Ezekiel’s seatbelt was locked. He was hanging from the ceiling. He was able to slide out from it, but before he crawled out through the shattered window, he tried kicking Grant to wake up. When he came out the window, there was a lady there. She said he had Grant’s blood all over his hands. It’s a miracle Ezekiel survived this crash,” Grant’s wife Rachael Stokka said.
Mullen pleaded guilty to failing to yield resulting in death. Her attorney spoke on her behalf during the sentencing hearing.
“There were probably a lot of accidents where people creep out from piled up snow banks and end up in accidents. As Mrs. Stokka has said, a split second here could’ve made all the difference. It could’ve been Tessa that was struck broadside,” Mullen’s attorney Jake Feuerhelm said.
Mullen was sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine and serve 20 days in the Clarke County Jail to be closer to her medical appointments, followed by one year of probation.
“It hurts a little bit that she gets to choose where she spends that time. It just feels unfair. I didn’t get a choice in anything. I didn’t get a choice if he dies. I didn’t get a choice. If you pulled out in front of my husband, I don’t get a choice in things,” Rachael Stokka said.
She said the family is keeping his memory alive through special shirts and a memorial golf tournament.
“They say love others, hug hard and sing loud. So that’s pretty much how Grant lived his life and on the back it says ‘Stokka, the unforgettable.’ Anyone that encountered Grant, he just made an impact. He cared about people genuinely. He’s not selfish,” Rachael said.
The Stokka family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit that claims not only did Mullen fail to yield causing death, but that she also knowingly left the scene of an accident.
The lawsuit asks for both emotional distress damages and punitive damages.