Bar owner is charged in deaths of two teens

Charges: The Dallas County District Attorney's Office has filed manslaughter charges in connection with the deaths of two Arlington teens killed in a drunken-driving accident.

by Mary McKee
Saturday, August 16, 2003
Star-Telegram Dallas Bureau
Copyright 2003 Star-Telegram, Inc.

Tana Robison and Sharron Hester say their children paid the ultimate price for underage drinking when they died three years ago in a car crash after a night at a Dallas bar.

But the Arlington women say that the bar owner who allowed the two teens to drink alcohol has largely managed to avoid responsibility -- until now.

Last month, the Dallas County district attorney's office filed manslaughter charges against Samuel Jefferson Dolan, 44, in the deaths of Corey Robison, 18, and his girlfriend, Melissa Jenkins, 17.

"We are ecstatic, because when it first happened, everybody blamed Corey because he was the drunk driver," said Hester, who is Jenkins' mother. "We were going, 'No. There is an adult somewhere that gave these kids alcohol.' "

District Attorney Bill Hill said filing manslaughter charges against an adult who supplies alcohol linked to a fatal drunken-driving accident is rare.

"That's very unusual," he said, adding that such charges have not been filed "since I've been here, and we can't really recall in recent memory that that's happened."

On Sept. 22, 2000, Robison was driving Jenkins and another teen home from July Alley, a Deep Ellum nightspot, when he got lost and wound up northbound on Interstate 35W in Fort Worth, his mother said.

While attempting to take an exit onto Northeast Loop 820, Robison lost control and his car flipped several times, killing him instantly and ejecting Jenkins, who was critically injured and died nine days later. The third teen, Danielle Reisinger, survived the accident.

Testimony during a civil trial last month showed that the teens were served five rounds of drinks, some with large amounts of liquor, said Dwain Dent of Fort Worth, Hester's attorney. Robison's blood-alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit of 0.08, his mother said.

The teens went to the club knowing that they likely would be served alcohol because Reisinger was acquainted with Dolan, Tana Robison said.

On July 21, Dolan was charged with intoxication manslaughter, manslaughter and intoxication assault, all felonies that carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison. Dolan also has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors.

His case has not yet been heard by a grand jury.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Dolan, but Dallas County deputies have been unable to locate him, Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Don Peritz said.

Driver's license records list Dolan's most recent address as a post office box in Rosebud, near Temple. A message left on a phone associated with the address was not returned.

Robison and Hester said they want to prevent other young people from a similar tragedy.

The two women had never met until after their children were killed, but they have since forged a close friendship. Their children are buried side by side in an Arlington cemetery.

After the accident, they donated Corey Robison's crushed car to Mothers Against Drunk Driving to be used in school programs aimed at teaching other teens the dangers of drunken driving.

Last month, they won a civil lawsuit filed against Dolan, another club official and two companies affiliated with the club, but have so far received no money for damages.

Both pushed for charges against Dolan, and credit Marcia Taylor, a Dallas County prosecutor, with moving the case forward. Taylor declined to comment.

Robison acknowledges that the teens exhibited poor judgment in drinking and driving, but said, "They would have never been over there except for this guy. I hold him accountable."

An autopsy on Corey Robison showed the presence of marijuana in his body, but his mother said that Reisinger told her the youths did not use the drug on the night of the accident.

A MADD official said she can't recall any local cases in which a bar owner faced manslaughter charges for supplying alcohol that was linked to a fatal drunken-driving accident.

"This is a real precedent-setting situation," said Susan Bragg, director of the victim's services program for the Metroplex chapter of MADD.

Hester said she knows that nothing can bring back her daughter. But she said pursuing criminal charges against the person she holds responsible brings some solace.

"Our kids paid the ultimate price for what happened," she said. "As far as we're concerned, the other people involved also have a price to pay."