Guest Post: The cost of traffic violence — the daughter of a distracted driving victim speaks out

Last year, an alleged distracted driver plowed into a cyclist in Moorpark, then swerved into motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction, killing them both.

Recently, the daughter of one of those victims asked for the opportunity to tell her story. 

This is what she has to say.

……..

Hailey Cushman’s Story

My name is Hailey Cushman and I am Jesse Cushman’s only biological child. My dad was killed on September 12th, 2015 on his way home from work from BMW Motorcycles located in Ventura. He was hit head-on on his motorcycle in Moorpark, CA by Rachel Hill, who was later found to have been texting and driving. Hill first hit bicyclist Maciek Malish then over-corrected and swerved to hit my father. Both men were killed on impact but Hill only walked away with scratches. In fact, Hill was caught taking pictures of her injuries and posting them on her Facebook the next day as if the accident was humorous to her. This tragic event happened just 9 days before my 21st birthday (in which I had plans that were immediately cancelled and never rescheduled). Dad was going to be 44 years young in October 2015. He was born in Simi Valley, CA but lived most of his life in Reno, NV, which is where I live. Within a couple days of the accident I was down in Fillmore, CA, where dad currently lived with my grandmother, Jorja, and my stepmother, Julia. Julia and dad married in 2002. When dad moved to Southern California he was brought closer to his biological father, Joe Freas, who lives in Thousand Oaks, CA. Joe and dad were in the process of trying to rekindle their relationship after years of separation.

As a child I was lucky to have never experienced a close death in the family but that aspect has also made losing my father at this age extremely difficult for me. My dad had an exciting, fulfilling and fun life. My dad was Batman! My dad and Julia were heavily involved with cosplay and all things comics. Dad had several Batman suits that were so legit that he was in several professional photo shoots. That year dad and Julia won free tickets to the San Diego Comic Con, which they had been trying to attend for years. Dad and I enjoyed doing a lot together when I would come visit in the summer time; we would go boogie boarding in Malibu, go to Six Flags Magic Mountain several times a month (it was our favorite together), race quads (he raced professionally but he also taught me how to ride and I was too racing at just 5 years old). As a family, we would frequently play video games and board games as they owned a plethora of Monopoly games and superhero video games. We would even get the whole family involved with Rockband and have somebody on each instrument. Another big part of my dad and Julia’s life was motorcycles. They were a part of the local STAR riding chapters where they would do toy drives, poker runs and many other fun rides with the group. My grandma would always worry about dad on his motorcycle because she knew the risks but both dad and Julia were very cautious riders. I guess this proves that no matter how cautious you are in life you can never fully protect yourself from others.

Since I lost my dad my life has changed forever. I’ve had to see more psychiatrists lately for stress, anxiety and depression in order to keep my job and continue my college education (which I am close to finishing). I am so young and I have so much of my life ahead of me but my father will not be able to be there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, be there at the birth of his grandchildren, see me graduate college or buy my first house. The Cushman and Malish family’s lives have forever been changed and will always hurt when we think about this tragic incident. We try to put our minds at ease by thinking about how Rachel Hill will have to live with what she has caused these two families for the rest of her life as well, but unfortunately, we are unable to rely upon the justice system to make her accountable. We have recently been told by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office that Hill may not even receive any jail time but only community service. The Ventura County District Attorney’s office is certainly corrupt. The CHP took 8 months to complete the police report to ensure they had all the information and evidence to create a strong case. The CHP’s recommendation was that Hill should be charged with a felony of two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Within 2 weeks of the Ventura County District Attorney receiving the case they decide that Hill only be charged with a misdemeanor!

Now, I am a smart and educated person. I have been going to school for 16 years (total) and this is not what I was taught in how our justice system operates! When you kill another person due to reckless driving you go to jail! End of story! Rachel Hill is only getting a slap on the wrist for killing TWO innocent people. I spoke with the assistant District Attorney who informed me that they did not have enough evidence to prove gross negligence, even though they had all of Rachel’s text message conversations showing she was texting while driving leading up to the accident. Hill has been able to spend the last 9 months with her family through the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which were especially hard times for both the Cushman and Malish families. Now that Father’s Day is less than one week away my heart aches just thinking about that empty feeling I will have now not being able to celebrate it with my dad. No amount of money or punishment on Rachel Hill’s behalf will ever bring my father or Maciek Malish back but it would at least be nice to have a piece of mind knowing that Rachel Hill’s life would be forever affected with jail time, a felony and two counts of manslaughter on her record for the rest of her life the same way that our family will forever be devastated about this loss and injustice. Not a single person I have spoken to agrees with the District Attorney’s decision of a misdemeanor (besides the Hill family). We need to bring attention to this obvious injustice and corruption of our justice system by bringing publicity to this case for both the Cushman and the Malish family in hopes to one day begin to heal from this tragic loss.

From left to right: dad, Julia, grandma and me. Disneyland 2012 celebrating mine and Julia's graduation, grandmas birthday and dad and Julia's anniversary.

From left to right: Dad, Julia, Grandma and me. Disneyland 2012 celebrating my and Julia’s graduation, grandma’s birthday and Dad and Julia’s anniversary.

Dad and Julia's wedding picture: June 12th, 2002.

Dad and Julia’s wedding picture: June 12th, 2002.

Dad in his amazing Batman costume!

Dad in his amazing Batman costume!

My favorite picture of dad and I at Disneyland.

My favorite picture of Dad and I at Disneyland.

R.I.P. Jesse Cushman. I love you!

……..

Reducing, let alone eliminating, traffic fatalities will be impossible as long as prosecutors refuse to take even the most egregious cases like this seriously. 

If you’re as angry as I am about this case, contact Ventura County DA Gregory D. Totten, and politely — but firmly — demand that the case be re-filed as a felony.

Hailey, and all the families and loved ones of both victims, deserve better.

As do we all.

2 comments

  1. Dear Hailey,

    Thank you very much for sharing the very personal and moving account of your Father’s life and death. I never had the privilege of meeting your Dad, but now I wish I had.

    I can only guess about this, but I imagine your Father would want you to have a good life, so I hope you will take care of yourself and work toward that. Be inspired by the good things he did with his life. Best wishes to you.

    Now, in addition to wishing you well, I’m going to do something concrete and contact the Ventura County DA.

  2. Ben says:

    Takes a lot of courage to pen something like this, thanks Hailey. So terrible for everyone involved, I’m so sorry for your loss, but we appreciate speaking out.

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