Hi, my name is Stephanie Bridges. I am the widow of James (Jim) Bridges. Iím not sure how to begin thisÖ. I never expected to be writing anything like this. And I pray that I will never have to do it again.
I had intended to begin this with the night of the crime, but instead I will begin with telling you about the kind of person my husband was.
Jim was always happy, No one ever seen Jim without a smile on his face. He enjoyed making people laugh, even complete strangers. I never seen anyone enjoy life like Jim. If he walked in a room full of depressed or arguing people, he could always brighten that room up. By the time he would leave that room everyone had forgotten why they were depressed or arguing. He did not like to see anyone not enjoying life as much as he did. Jim enjoyed fishing, talking on the citizen band radio, and spending as much time as he could with his family.
Around 11:00pm on May 14, 2002, I talked to my husband on the phone. As it turns out, it was for the last time. He also talked to our three-year-old son. He told us both he loved us and that he would see us in the morning. Thirty minutes later, at 11:30pm, I got the phone call from one of my husbandsí co-workers telling me that a car had hit my husband and that he was being taken to UC Davis Medical Center. That same co-worker was on his way to drive me to the hospital. I was in no condition to drive myself. My body was literally shaking uncontrollably, and I was crying so hard I couldnít see anything. Our 15-year-old son was still awake and heard the call. He cried himself to sleep that night, with my sister holding him in her arms. I stayed all night at the hospital with my husband, who at that time was already in a coma. I had to go home for a short time that morning to make phone calls and while I did that, four of our boys were making welcome home signs for their dad, Their dad that would never come home. They put their handprints on a sweatshirt that said "BEST DAD HANDS DOWN" and we hung it up in his hospital room. Their dad never saw that shirtÖ. He never opened his eyes again.
I stayed at the hospital all day; everyday for the entire 12 days my husband was in a coma. I held his hand. I prayed more than I ever prayed for him to make it and come home to us. I wanted to climb in that hospital bed with him to hold him. There were so many tubes and wires coming out of his body that it was impossible for me to do that. I think every day about how he didnít die instantly; He suffered 12 days before he died. He went through countless surgeries on his head injury and other parts of his body. Everything they did in that hospital to try to save my husband could not help him. His brain was injured too badly, and it kept getting worse. He suffered numerous strokes as a result of these injuries. Everyone; myself, Jims family, Jims co-workers, and our friendsÖ all of us were put through an emotional roller coaster ride that I could never hope to explain or describe. It was so hard to see him lying in that hospital bed. Sometimes, when I was really tired, I could almost convince myself that it wasnít really him lying there at all. That person with thousands of tubes and wires and machines wasnít my Jim, The Jim that enjoyed life so much and was always laughing and joking. We were so in love. So in love and happy that I thought we were already in heaven. People envied our marriage because of how happy we were. We never fought or argued. We were always smiling and showing how much in love we were. We called each other sometimes up to 10 times a day just to say, "I love you" and hear each other's voice. Now I envy everyone elseís. This past year has been the hardest situation for me to accept. I canít imagine a life without my husband in it. I donít know what to do without him. Our kids and I are completely lost without him. I go to bed each night hoping that when I awake in the morning, it has all been a bad dream. Every day I hear our four-year-old son begging for me to bring his daddy home to him. If he gets hurt or is upset about anything, he cries " DADDY, I WANT YOU DADDY". My heart just breaks. How do I help this little boy to understand that his daddy can NEVER come home to us? How do I explain to this crying child why daddy didnít come home after the last words he heard from him were " Iíll see you in the morning Buddy, I love you, and good night"? Now the only way he gets to say good night and I love you daddy is to yell real loud up at the stars. Or when he really needs to say I love you daddy during the day, I take him to the cemetery. There is where the only way he can now give his daddy a kiss is by kissing his daddyís name on the head stone. Our other boys are old enough to understand that their dad isnít coming home, but they are hurting and they are having trouble accepting it. I want so badly to be able to sooth their hurt with a bandage and hope that it wonít leave a scar, but a bandage wonít help their pain. Their pain is a pain that they will have for the rest of their lives that they will eventually learn to live with and it does leaves a scar. A scar so big and so bad that no parent ever wants to see their children have. Jim played with them always. Even when he had a hard day at work, he would still take the time to play with them. We have this orange pillow. Jim named it "orange you glad to see me" and he would have pillow fights with them. He wrestled, played ball, video games and so much more. They will never enjoy those special times with their dad again. They will never have their dad to talk to about the boy things, they will never have their dad there to see them go on their first date, their prom, when they graduate high school, or when they get married and have his grandchildren. Our lives have been destroyed and will never be the same again. We have gone through every holiday and birthday without Jim this last year. It was very hard and depressing for all of us. The laughter and happiness was not there. I donít think it will ever be there again. This next sentence is from a mothers day letter one of our boys wrote me this past mothers day, " I know Iíve been bad in school a lot this year, but when ever I think about my dad, I miss him and do something bad. I just want my dad back and for us to be happy again". This same boy just had eye surgery a week ago. He was scared and wanted his dad there to comfort him with me. I still pray for a miracle. I want to see my husband walk through our front door with his smile. I want to hear his voice, feel his arms holding me, feel his lips kissing me, and see the same for our children, and the rest of his family. Not only have our lives been destroyed in that way, but it has been destroyed financially also. I canít afford to give them their chore money that their dad gave them every week. I canít afford to take them to do the fun things we would do with them every weekend. Jimís income was the main income in our household. We never had to worry about whether we could pay our bills each month, now Iím lucky to be able to make the bills and rent each month. Our boys are growing up fast. Our oldest has only three more years of high school and then he would like to attend college. How can I afford to pay for him to go to a good college to become the lawyer he wants to be? The other boys are not far behind him. How will I ever be able to afford to put all of our boys through college without Jimís income? I am so scared! Scared for my future but more so for our childrenís future.
Every time I come to court I look for some type of remorse from this woman for being so irresponsible and killing my husband but I donít see any at all. Instead I have got mean glares from her. I donít understand why she is so angry with Jim's family, friends and I. We have done nothing to her. She ruined our lives and she did this to herself when she made the choice to drive after she had been drinking that night of May 14,2002. The issue of her being singled out because of the color of her skin was real upsetting. What does the color of any ones skin have to do with making a foolish choice to drink and drive then kill someone due to that foolish choice?
Iím not looking for revenge and I know nothing is going to bring my husband back, however, I feel that two years is not enough time for anyone to learn a lesson when there has been a life lost and we get a life sentence do to her actions. Please give her the maximum sentence possible for her crime. Please show the people that taking a life because they foolishly make a choice to drink and drive is something they do not want to chance doing. Iíd like to see as many lives as possible saved in the future. I never want to see anyone go through what Jim went through the last 12 days of his life and I donít want to see another family go through what we have been going through.
I would like to end this by asking: Why was getting in that car and driving after you had been drinking, Ms. Jackson, more important than my husbands life?
Victim Impact Statement
RE: People vs. Tanzania Jackson
My name is Donna or Sissy as my brother always called me. By writing these following words, I have to accept even after almost one year to the date that my brother isn't coming back, he isn't on vacation and he's truly dead. What's worse is he is not dead by his own hand or of old age, he's dead because Tanzania Jackson made the decision to drink and drive at double the legal limit, and all my brother did was go to work to support his family that night.
Jim (Broby as I always called him) went to work on the night of May 14th, 2002 and never returned home again. He was working in a cone zone construction site on Northrup Ave in Sacramento when at approximately 11:30 p.m. he was hit by Tanzania Jackson who was driving drunk. At 11:42 pm, I received the worst call of my life while I was home with my own family. I heard my sister in law Stephanie screaming into my answering machine for me to pick up the phone. I ran to the phone to hear that my only sibling, my baby brother had been hit by a car while working and that it was really really bad and they were rushing him the UC Davis Medical Center. That is the night my life forever changed.
I so often hear that a person will plea for their freedom after commiting a heinous crime that involves the death of another person as if their life was worth more than the life of the person that they killed. However, not only did someone die, that being my brother and only sibling, but a part of me has died with him. Not only did he die because of Tanzania Jackson's choices, but he died a horrible 12 days later that will haunt me for the rest of my life. He did not die quick or peacefully, nor did he ever reach old age. He died in a hospital bed in a NSICU trauma unit 12 nightmarish days later with tubes everywhere, a fatally swelling brain, a stomach cut open from internal bleeding from being hit by her car, torn mouth with broken teeth, a broken leg and parts of his skull missing in attempts to save his life. We went through countless surgeries in hopes that he would live. I had trouble eating, sleeping, and I hardly saw my own family at home during that time. He was on life support and dying more every day. He had strokes from the swelling in his brain and they told us one had made him blind not that he ever woke up to see us. His body bloated to a horrible sight from all the medications they were pumping into his body through all those tubes.He was in a coma and also had to be medically paralyzed in further attempts to try and save his life. He never woke up again. We had nurses that were taking care of him shed tears at the senselessness of this tragedy. I will hope until the day that I die that he did not feel the extent of his pain and ours. If I don't hold that hope, I fear I will fall apart.
Every time I hear an ambulance, see an orange cone, a vested worker, or hear of another killed by a drunk driver all the memories and horrors come flooding back even more. I can't watch tv shows involving hospitals, car crashes, drunk drivers, or court procedures. Not a day goes by I don't think of him, cry for my Broby and our loss of him and remember the worst 12 days of my life. All he did was go to work to make a living. He was young, vibrant, married, and a father. He was a funny, laughing, good natured man whoís voice and laughter weíll never hear again. When I visit my brother now, I visit a cemetery plot where his name is engraved on a small plaque.
Holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are no longer happy events. There is a sadness and loss surrounding them. Where there was once closeness and laughter there is now silence, avoidance, and tears. The 14th and 27th of every month cause a lump in my throat and a pain in my chest. My brother and I used to have a fun ritual every year for our birthdays and holidays. My birthday is the 4th of July and his followed on August 2nd. We found creative traditions that started years ago when we were without extra cash for gifts and the traditions stuck throughout the years. On my birthday, we would meet at my mom's house for a pool party with our families. Throughout the day his gift to me would be that he served me my meal and got me a soda whenever I was thirsty. Anything I wanted he would have to get for me. I could never go overboard on requests because I always knew his birthday was less than a month later and he would get even. We played practical jokes on eachother such as serving my brother with flat forks for his 30th birthday. For some odd reason, he could not stand flat forks and we just had to run with the idea and make sure every single fork was flat. For Christmas we shopped with a $1-$2 price limit for our gifts. I started in the early fall looking for Brut soap on a rope and anything with trolls on it for our gag Christmas gifts. To us, Christmas was more about being together and laughing than what gifts we could give eachother. Even as we got older we kept our gag traditions even while giving other gifts. The year before he was killed, I received an Amazon.com email gift certificate from my brother. I was thrilled and then I noticed that the card did not say "Happy Birthday Sissy", instead he chose to put "Happy Birthday Grandma". He couldn't resist the chance to play a joke on me. I miss those jokes.
Broby and I lived together on and off even as adults. I remember coming home one time and he had made me dinner because I had to work late. He made a wonderful pot roast as he was a great cook. Everything was perfect and then I asked what was in the potatoes. It turns out he forgot to peel them and just mashed them all together. We laughed for years. I used to hide things in his baseball caps like the phone number 867-5309 and call me written under it. We were the closest siblings I have ever met and I only have the memory of that now. There will be no more laughter to share with him.
I have gotten a rude awakening to a court system full of delays and heartbreak. Every postponement, while good for the defendant's freedom, is a living hell for me. Every new court date brings a whole new set of heartache and disappointment. I had to deal with the shock that 4 years plus a strike, and now only 2 years is all my brother's life was worth. I have a 5 year old daughter that begs for her mommy not to have to leave her to go back to court to see the person that "drinked the alcohol and drove her car and made her uncle Jammy die and go to Heaven". I have gone through almost a year of a little boy asking his Auntie Donna to please let his daddy come home now and try not to completely fall upon in hearing his pleas.
I have lost my faith in God, because a good God would not have taken my brother away from us so tragically. I have lost friends who don't know what to say to me in fear that I will fall apart and it's from something they cannot fix or make better. The pain doesn't stop in my heart or in my head as my baby brother was my first friend and playmate and we continued to stay close throughout his short life. I used to joke and play with him. We had a life filled with happiness and laughter. We kidded eachother about going gray and having grandkids and how we would spoil them with candy and send them home to their parents, our children. Now our children will only see old photographs and have to live on memories from myself and those around me. I will tell them about my brother Jimmy and they won't ever be able to understand the bond we had like they should because they will never be old enough to remember us interacting so happily with eachother.
Your Honor, please give Tanzania Jackson the maximum sentence allowed currently under California law which is 4 years and a strike on her record, even though it will never truly be enough and will not bring Jim back it can at least give us some justice. We will all live with a life sentence and a good man is dead at her hand, it's the least that can be done.The courts have already given Ms. Jackson a break once before for another felony and she abused that courtesy, I beg of you to do the correct thing in this needless death of a loved man, my brother.