Angry Mom Speaks Out on Son’s Death

MOUNDSVILLE — Paula Wood said every day without her son is difficult.

Her 17-year-old son Chaz Lightner died a little more than a month ago, but Wood said she still leaves daily messages for him on his MySpace Web site. She still cleans his room in her Jonesborough, Tenn., home. Chaz split his time living with her and with his father, Rusty Lightner Sr., in Moundsville.

But what’s more difficult for her is believing his death could have been prevented.

“I break down every day,” she said. “I think, ’Why did this happen to my son?”’

Chaz Lightner died Feb. 10 while at a party with his teenage friends in the home of Archie and Sabrina Stevey, also of Moundsville. Authorities said the Steveys came home during the party that night, were aware the youths at the party were drinking and went to bed without stopping it.

Shortly after they went to bed, Wood said, her son was dared by another teen to drink a bottle of McMasters whiskey through a “beer bong,” which he did. A few hours later, he was dead — his blood-alcohol concentration had reached a fatal 0.374 percent.

“I’m angry. They just came home and went to bed … ,” Wood said. “If I had that many kids drinking in my house, I would have stopped it before going to bed.”

On Tuesday, the Steveys were indicted on counts of child neglect resulting in death, according to Marshall County Prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer. The same day, Rusty Lightner Sr. said in a broadcast report as saying he did not feel the Steveys should have been charged with anything and he wants the charges dropped.

But Wood feels differently and said she believes the teens who were drinking with her son also should be punished.

Last month, Cramer said the children in the home would not be charged with any crime, even though they were drinking alcohol while under the legal age.

“I am very upset with that,” Wood said. “I feel that those children should have to do community service or complete an alcohol recovery program or something. Yes, I understand that a lot of them are grieving, but some will just go out to another party and do it again.

“If they were his friends, why did they make that bet?” she wondered.

Wood said when she first started talking with investigators and witnesses about what happened the night Chaz died, she expected charges to be filed against someone. She did not know against whom, however, because information was still being gathered.

Wood said she did not know the Steveys personally, but she did know of them because Chaz was friends with their son. As she learned more about the events leading up to Chaz’s death, she became angry that the couple did not stop the drinking party as soon as they got home that night.

“I was going to be upset if they did not” file charges, she said. “Why would you not get back up (from bed) and check on the kids?”

According to Cramer, that is where the charge of neglect stems from, because as soon as the Steveys returned home and allowed the children to spend the night, they became “custodians” and were responsible for their well-being.

Wood maintains that since Chaz’s death, the only contact she has had with the Steveys came from Sabrina, who sent her a sympathy message asking Wood how she was feeling.

“I thought, ‘How do you think I am doing?’” Wood said. “That was just a dumb thing to do.”

She added that the couple did attend Chaz’s funeral and were visibly upset over his death.

Concerning the Steveys’ prosecution, Wood said she just wants justice to be served for her son and for his death to serve as a positive learning experience.

“The only thing I have to say is that whatever sentence they get, whether it’s probation or the maximum, I hope they learn from this,” Wood said. “I actually hope they stop drinking, or at least never have another party like that at their house again.”

She also had a message for the teenagers who were in the house with Chaz the night he died.

“I love each and every one of them because they meant something to Chaz,” she said. “And I want all of the kids, if they know something, to just come forth. They can come to me. I just want the truth to come out.”

In addition to the neglect charge, Archie Stevey also has been indicted on one count of obstructing, as officials said he ordered the teens in the home to clean up the evidence of alcohol use before alerting authorities of Chaz’s death.

The couple will make their first appearance on all the charges at 1:15 p.m. March 26 before Judge Mark A. Karl in Marshall County Circuit Court.