The photograph shown in court of Jaelan Fajardo is one that will not be forgotten. The 16-year-old had freshly done hair and is smiling warmly, eyes bright, wearing a clean, button-down shirt. He looks happy, optimistic, young.
Jaelan’s life was taken in February of this year at 6:30 a.m. when a drunk driver slammed into Jaelan’s car while he was on his way to Shadow Ridge High School. Those who knew Jaelan say he had excellent grades, played soccer, and participated in track and field.
A Senseless Tragedy
Jaelan did a lot of things right. On the morning of his death, he was sitting patiently at a red light, wearing his seat belt. But those choices seemed not to matter. As David Fensche plowed into the back of Jaelan’s vehicle, the car was catapulted into the intersection, and all of Jaelan’s optimism, excellent grades, athletic ability, and good decisions could not save him.
Prosecutors said Fensche never even lifted his foot from the gas pedal.
After he was arrested, Fensch, 48, admitted to officers that he’d taken Xanax combined with four drinks of rum the night before. He also told officers he was coming from Bally’s Hotel & Casino and did not remember the car crash.
Perhaps the most shocking element of this story is that this was not David Fensch’s first DUI. Or his second. Or his third. Or his fourth.
This was David Fensch’s fifth DUI.
An Emotional Sentencing
During Fensch’s sentencing, dozens of Jaelan’s friends and family members crowded into the courtroom, teary-eyed, listening to Fensch’s apology. “Knowing that I took somebody so young and bright, and a loving family member,” Fensch, said, “I just can’t express my apologies enough. I know no words or enough apologies will bring Jaelan back to your family.”
Jaelan’s mother, Marcia Fajardo, did not take well to Fensch’s apology. “You are a complete waste of human life,” she said to him before he was sentenced. “You attended an impact panel and went to DUI school but never learned your lesson. You continued to offend until you killed my son. You have no idea the pain and sorrow and heartache you caused my family, and to all the kids who are here today, and others who can’t be here.”
After other family members spoke, District Judge Michael Villani sentenced Fensch to the maximum penalty of 8-20 years in prison.
“He should have been locked up a long time ago,” Jaelan’s mother said to the judge. “He has no regard for human life.”
Fensch sobbed quietly as she spoke.
“I would not want any other mother, or any other human being, to suffer like I did because of him,” Marcia said.
Changing Nevada DUI Laws
Marcia Fajardo did not end her battle there. She wrote to several Nevada legislators in March asking them to sponsor a bill to increase DUI penalties in Las Vegas. “What happened is very tragic and devastating to my family,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’m trying to find a way where we can turn this tragic event into something positive.”
She calls her proposition “Jaelan’s Law.” As of this report, it has not generated a bill.
In 2015, there were 2,300 first time DUI offenders in Clark County. That number doesn’t include offenders in Henderson or North Las Vegas; nor does it include offenders arrested for their second, third, fourth, or fifth DUI’s.
In regards to Marcia’s proposed bill, State Senator Mark Manendo said, “With the budget crunch that we have, to mandate one year in prison for anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 people a year, mandatory in prison, we’d have to realistically build another prison. It’s expensive to house offenders. We know that. More staff, more prisons, through the court system. We just don’t have that kind of money.”
Manendo, however, is pushing his own bill that could come at a less expensive cost. He believes that if an individual is caught drunk driving and wants to keep his driver’s license, then that person should be required to put an ignition interlock device in his car. The device is “about 60 bucks a month, which is a very small price to pay to continue to be able to have those privileges to drive,” Manendo says.
Meanwhile, Jaelan’s family continues to fight for their own bill, in their beloved Jaelan’s memory. If you would like to help support “Jaelan’s Law” the family asks that you write or call your local representative.