Fatal hit & run driver gets probation; victim’s friends devastated

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) -Friends of a young man killed in a hit and run say the justice system failed them Friday. John Foster Courtney, 29, was fatally struck while walking in St. Louis' Grove neighborhood on July 4th, 2011.  On Friday, his killer was sentenced. Courtney's killer was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, but the involuntary manslaughter charge was dropped. His best friend is devastated by this outcome.In 2004, Courtney and Jason Hall both moved to St. Louis from small towns. They were best friends ever since.

Hall says, "He was like a brother to me.  He was the kind of guy that immediately drew people in, I think that's why he liked working in human resources.  People always felt comfortable around Foster."

Courtney's life came to a tragic end, right before Hall's eyes.

He recalls, "We were just walking from one place to the next, like you see people doing here tonight, until Justin Kramarczyk comes flying by in his SUV, hits Foster, and flees the scene of the accident, doesn't turn himself in until the next day."

Then-24 year-old Justin Kramarczyk was charged with involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.

According to Missouri law, "A person commits the crime of involuntary manslaughter…if he or she, while in an intoxicated condition, operates a motor vehicle…and acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person."

Even though Kramarczyk admitted he'd had a drink or two, prosecutors ultimately had to drop the manslaughter charge.  They were unable to prove he was intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Spokesperson Lauren Trager states, "Every possible effort was made to secure evidence to prove the charges as defined by Missouri law."

In court, Kramarczyk was sentenced to a 4-month substance abuse program, followed by 5 years of alcohol-free probation.

The victim's best friend waited years for a sentencing he thought would bring closure, but instead brought more grief.

"This wasn't damage to property or an injury; he killed somebody. To think that almost four years later, the result of that would be the killer would walk away with probation and a few months of rehab, is unimaginable to me," explains Hall.

Meanwhile, Courtney's mother reacted much differently.  At one point, 70 year-old Connie Courtney hugged her son's killer for several minutes. She told reporters that anger and bitterness can't be a part of her life, and she can't hold grudges.


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