Neil Stephany was only 24 years old.
He made a HUGE mistake.
It cost someone their life.
And Neil’s freedom and future.
It was October 19, 2014. Multiple people had alerted police to Stephany’s erratic driving, but unfortunately he couldn’t be stopped before he struck and killed 30-year-old bicyclist, Shaun Eagleson. The mistake that would change his life forever.
It seems Neil’s mistakes began by using (and subsequently getting hooked on) heroin. Heroin is an opioid, or depressant. That means it drastically slows down reaction time and your ability to control your muscles. According to Drug Info, opioids can cause the following symptoms behind the wheel:
- Slow reaction time
- Taking longer to respond to events or situations, and possibly choosing an inappropriate response
- Reduced coordination
- Reduced ability to think clearly
- Blurred vision
- Drowsiness or starting to ‘nod off’
Mistake #1: Using heroin. Mistake #2: Driving while high on heroin. It’s a massive understatement to say he wasn’t using great judgment at this point.
After he hit Shaun Eagleson, he took off (Mistake #3: hit and run), plowing through a guard rail and fleeing the scene. More calls to the police from bystanders. About 5:30 p.m., police catch up with Stephany and he’s arrested.
Stephany actually knew murder charges were a possibility. Back in 2011, he got a DUI conviction and “signed a statement acknowledging he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He signed the advisement again in 2013.” (source: OC Weekly) In 2013, he had an “assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury” conviction. He also did jail time for violating parole in both cases.
He became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whether he didn’t take the signed statement seriously or thought that would never happen to him, we don’t know. What we do know is his reckless behavior, while very drastic, is not inconsistent with young men his age, which is why car accidents are the leading cause of preventable death among teenagers and young adults. And it’s certainly not inconsistent with the behavior of a drug addict, either.
Stephany was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life.
We grieve for Stephany’s young wife, and the rest of his family and friends who feel the void from his loss. Stephany has expressed remorse for his actions and we hope he can make his future more healthy, positive, and productive than his past.
At Safety 1st, we believe in learning from the successes and failures of ourselves and others is key to a good life.
We also believe in educating our students and community about the dangers of driving distracted, intoxicated, high, etc. as well as equipping them with the tools to drive safely, cautiously, and defensively.
Please take a lesson from the actions of Neil Stephany: Do not use drugs. Do not drive under the influence of… well, ANYTHING. If you are in an accident, it is in everyone’s best interests to stay and take responsibility. Make sure the other driver/passengers are ok. Alert emergency personnel if necessary.
In other words, Do the right thing.