The drunk driver who struck and killed student Casey Ellis on Thanksgiving Day in 2016 was sentenced to ten years in jail with probation, including one year served in jail and nine years on probation.
Charles Schaefer, a 21-year-old Abilene resident, pleaded guilty to second degree felony manslaughter. He was driving while intoxicated on Nov. 23, 2016, and struck Casey Ellis, who was riding a bicycle at the intersection of Judge Ely Boulevard and Ambler Avenue. His sentence includes one year in jail and nine years of probation with certain conditions, said district attorney Dan Joiner. The standard probation conditions include community service and using a car that requires a breathalyzer to start, among other things. Schaefer will also have to read aloud to his probation officer a statement of impact written by the victim’s family each year on the anniversary of Ellis’ death.
“They didn’t want him to spend his life in prison,” Joiner said, “but they wanted the impact to change his life.”
A social work major from Bethel, Connecticut, Ellis was known for service and kindness. A plaque in her honor near the Hardin Administration Building reads, “Gentle, Fierce, Healer.”
“If Casey wanted something, she did it,” said her mother, Susan Myers.
When she was a child, she taught herself to ride a bike. She wouldn’t let any adults help her balance the bike or even touch the back of the seat while she learned.
“It took her a full summer, lots of skinned knees,” Myers said, “but she was gonna do it. By the end of the summer she was riding, and she was gonna do it on her own.”
On the night she was killed, Ellis was riding her bike to go feed a dog for a friend.
Whether babysitting or working with the nonprofit Joni and Friends, Ellis became known for kindness to people with special needs. When she was in high school, she went to prom with a boy who had autism and Down Syndrome. She didn’t love shopping, Myers said, and spent only $10 on the prom dress she found on a clearance rack.
“He enjoyed prom on his terms,” Myers said. “When he began to get sensory overload, he and Casey just walked over to where it was quiet, and they sat. She got him to dance.”
Myers said she was amazed by the number of people her daughter impacted – other social work majors, friends, children and even the last customers she served at Cracker Barrel the night she died.
Myers and her husband, Robert Myers, said they wrote the victim impact statement and wanted Schaefer to read it each year so the memory of what he had done would not fade.
“He killed her,” Myers said. “I’m very clear on those wordings because that’s what he did. He drank; he got behind the wheel. He was stupid.”
Joiner said this is the first time he’s seen victims ask for this kind of statement of impact as part of probation. The Myers said they hope this will inspire other victims to do similar statements for other crimes.