Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Rachel Dombrowski said Rachel Anna Buckler was driving on Chapel Point Road when she struck Thomas Roepcke with the driver side of her vehicle and continued driving, leaving the man injured on the side of a road. Roepcke was not found until hours after the crash, about 3 a.m. Sept. 2, and succumbed to his injuries in a local hospital Sept. 10.
Text message records indicate that Buckler had been drinking that evening, Dombrowski said.
So, what's the penalty for such a crime?
Buckler was sentenced to a year in prison and has since been released.
But she actually got out a few days early to spend the holidays with her family, and was given both school and work release privileges. That's nice.
Now, Buckler’s attorney Robert Hetherington said, she is remorseful and would like to be a nurse. However, her felony charge prevents her from realizing this particular dream, Hetherington said, as nurses cannot have felony charges on their records. Hetherington requested her sentence be changed to probation before judgment, which would have effectively expunged her record.
“Given her choice of profession, a felony conviction amounts to a life sentence,” Hetherington said. “It will forever keep her from being a nurse. ... She wants to give back, to make up for these tragic events. She has served her punishment.”
No, a life sentence is actually very different. You just can't do a job that requires a history of responsibility. You know who else can't be a nurse? Thomas Roepcke. But wait, there's more.
Dombrowski also noted this is not Buckler’s first time hitting a person with her car: an accident she was in during 2008 when she struck a cyclist resulted in the cyclist developing epilepsy and suffering from complications related to the concussion he got.
I'm just going to let that sit for awhile.
During the investigation of the incident that killed Roepcke, Dombrowski said Buckler told officers she had only ever struck deer.
In fact, Buckler said she thought she’d hit a deer the night she killed Roepcke, Dombrowski said. A text message Buckler received from a friend that evening read “Rachel-1, deer-0. Think of it that way,” according to phone records obtained by the state.
Tracy Roepcke [the victim's brother] took particular issue with Buckler saying she mistook his brother for a deer, given the “hair, blood and bits of his clothing and bicycle” that were found on her vehicle.
The judge denied her request.
“She showed no mercy. I don’t believe my denial ... will be a loss to the nursing profession,” Bragunier said. “She could have saved a life, but she chose to save her own skin. Buckler’s life is not ruined. She still has one.”
And one last bit
Tracy Roepcke also spoke of the ire he held for the state’s attorney’s office for allowing Buckler to plead guilty.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon in a phone interview, Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony “Tony” Covington (D) said he could not say exactly why Buckler had been afforded the Alford plea in the first place without going back and re-examining court records but did say such pleas are not uncommon.