Bud Kennedy

Seven years after a drunk driver killed his father, he finds himself grieving both men

Seven years after a drunk driver slammed into a motorcycle at 80 mph and kept on driving with it impaled in the truck hood, the rider’s son finally had summoned the strength to forgive.

Now Brent Lynn is grieving for two men.

In 2012, he lost his father, Richard Lynn, 71.

Last month, he lost hope of a parole and redemption for driver Seth Donnelly, dead of killer heatstroke in a Texas prison.

“This makes it more horrible,” Brent Lynn, 51, of White Settlement, said days after Donnelly died June 23 in an Abilene hospital.

Donnelly, 29, of Fort Worth, had been running in a dog-training exercise where he wore a thick, 75-pound “bite suit” and dogs chased him down like a human chew toy.

“This may shock people,” Lynn said, “but I wanted to see him paroled.

“I think he died from neglect.”

Lynn said he was planning to testify for Donnelly to be paroled in March after six years of a 12-year sentence for intoxication manslaughter.

“Keeping him in prison was not going to bring my father back,” Lynn said.

Donnelly’s blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit near dusk on Oct. 3, 2012, when Fort Worth police saw him speeding north on Alta Mere Drive. At Calmont Avenue, he ran into Richard Lynn’s motorcycle.

Lynn, a school bus driver, was thrown 15 feet and died instantly.

Donnelly, then 22, had one previous drunk-driving conviction in Colleyville and other marijuana and intoxication arrests in Granbury, his hometown.

At the trial in 2014 in Fort Worth, he testified that he had drunk 15 beers and a half-bottle of rum at a friend’s house. He pleaded guilty.

“He was a kid,” Brent Lynn said.

“I was expecting a monster.”

Left fatherless, they still wanted to forgive

Donnelly’s mother, Debora, said Donnelly regretted driving drunk.

He was hoping for parole, Debora Donnelly said, to “make up for lost time.”

“He said many times that he can never make up for the hurt he’s caused,” she said, “but he will give his all every single day.”

Both Brent Lynn and Debora Donnelly said they were always told to never contact each other.

But after Seth Donnelly died, Lynn contacted Donnelly’s sister.

He had written Donnelly a letter of forgiveness that was never delivered.

“I didn’t want the guilt to eat him up,” Lynn said.

“I wanted him to go on and live his life.”

For Lynn, that letter wasn’t easy.

“When your father’s killed in a drunk driving accident, you have this hatred,” he said.

“And — I want you to understand — my personality is unforgiving. I still hate the (Dallas) Cowboys because they fired Tom Landry.”

A Jack Nicholson movie changed Lynn’s mind.

In the 1995 movie “The Crossing Guard,” Nicholson’s life spirals into a pit of drunkenness, despair and hatred after his daughter is killed by a drunk driver.

When the killer is released, Nicholson’s character sets out for revenge. The two men eventually realize their shared pain.

“That showed me how much it affects your life,” Lynn said.

“I didn’t want to be like the people on talk shows, 20 or 30 years later, still angry and still grieving.”

Prisoner’s body temperature reached 106 degrees

Last week, Lynn wrote another letter. It was a sympathy note to Donnelly’s family.

“He just died of negligence,” Lynn said.

“I think there needs to be better care.”

In letters to his family, Donnelly had been complaining about the heat at the Robertson Unit state prison near Abilene.

In the wee hours overnight June 21, he had been outside the fence with guards, wearing the padded suit and training dogs to chase him as prey.

He drank water afterward, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice statement.

But he was found unresponsive at 4 a.m. and taken to a hospital an hour later at 5 a.m. with a temperature of 106 degrees.

In the statement, TDCJ said a hospital screening tentatively indicated methamphetamine in his system.

But the cause of death is officially listed as hyperthermia, with a formal toxicology report pending.

A methamphetamine death can look like heatstroke, and heat exhaustion can worsen the effects of methamphetamine.

A service for Donnelly has not been scheduled, his mother said.

The Lynn family shares the Donnellys’ grief.

“My family wanted him to go on with his life and live his life to the fullest,” Brent Lynn said.

“We consider this a very tragic event. I hope there’s some changes on heat awareness in prisons.”

Forgiveness in death, redemption in life

The night his father was killed, Brent Lynn was 2 miles away at work.

He played song after song as the DJ for the dancers at an strip club on Benbrook Highway. Customers kept telling him about this horrible motorcycle crash up the road.

“People talked about this awful wreck, but I didn’t think anything about it,” he said.

“Everybody kept right on drinking and going out and driving.”

Five hours later, past 11 p.m., he found out who was killed.

“Seth killed him, but it could have been anybody leaving that club,” he said.

In death, Richard Lynn saved three lives, Brent Lynn said.

When Richard Lynn was pulling up to the red light, he changed lanes at the last moment and happened to pull into Donnelly’s path.

Had he not done that, Brent Lynn said, Donnelly would have plowed into a truck carrying a woman and two children.

Brent Lynn no longer works at the strip club.

He works at a dollar store. He’s a semester away from a college degree.

He hope to teach.

“I just want to make something good happen for children,” he said.

“I’m trying to go on with life.”