Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 8, 2013

Living with the pain

TAHLEQUAH — During a time in his life when he should be concentrating on raising his family and pursuing a career, Michael Foutch worries about bankruptcy and keeping his family together, while remembering the son he lost.

On Aug. 4, 2009, Michael and his wife, Vanessa, both 22, were returning home from Broken Arrow after watching the OU-Nebraska football game at the home of Foutch’s mom, Kathy. With Michael and Vanessa was daughter Jordan, 2, and Vanessa was seven months pregnant with their son, Adyn.

The Foutches had just exited U.S. Highway 412 and onto State Highway 82 when their vehicle was hit head-on by Oran Spencer. The last thing Michael remembers is paying the toll.

First responder reports provided by  Michael indicate Pete Milliron, of the Peggs Volunteer Fire Department, was on scene at the crash. Milliron said he “detected an odor of alcohol” coming from Spencer’s vehicle, and believed Spencer’s speech to be slurred.

Spencer pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in September 2012 for his role in the crash, but he was never charged with drunken driving.

Michael has no memory of the actual crash.

“I woke up in the hospital two days later,” he said. “Vanessa was seven months’ pregnant with Adyn, and Jordan was in the back seat. Vanessa remembers seeing headlights, and that’s it. Everything went black.”

Michael suffered a broken pelvis, broken left arm, broken jaw and nose, as well as a brain bleed. Vanessa’s ribs, left arm clavicle, hip, and ankle were broken; she also suffered a ruptured spleen, collapsed lung and burns on her left leg. An emergency Cesarean section was performed, and Adyn was born eight weeks early.

“We already knew we were having a boy,” said Michael. “He had a name. His bedroom had already been set up with a crib, blankets, toys and stuffed animals. We were already set up to have him – just not like that.”

Michael said Adyn weighed 3 pounds when he was taken by C-section.

“He suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen,” said Michael. “This was caused by Vanessa’s being unconscious and her loss of blood.”

Neither Michael nor Vanessa had a chance to hold their son, who eventually died as a result of his injuries.

“Vanessa, my mom and dad [Tim] and sister [Brittney] got to see him. I never got to see him,” said Michael. “They showed his picture on the TV news, but my glasses were mangled in the crash, so I couldn’t see. A volunteer for the hospital cleaned him up and took pictures of him that she brought to me after he died. I have those. But I never got to see him while he was on the ventilator.”

Jordan suffered burns on her stomach from the seat belt. Her spinal cord was severed, which has left her paralyzed and confined  to a wheelchair.

Since the accident almost four years ago, the Foutches have given birth to a second daughter, Bria, who will be 2 in May. Michael admits that holding the marriage together has been tough.

“We fought a lot, argued a lot,” he said. “The only reason we came through it was because we lived with my dad, whose house is wheelchair-accessible. We were all in wheelchairs for a while. That, and we received a lot of donations from my mom working at the radio station, which helped us get a fresh start. But probably what really got us through it all was Jordan. We had to be a team to care for her, get her to physical therapy and fitted for a wheelchair. Things like that.”

Michael and Vanessa are now both able to work, but they’ve amassed a mountain of medical bills – and Spencer has helped with very few.

“The way it happened is [Spencer] said ‘I did it,’ signed a book down at the courthouse, and as long as he stays out of trouble for a year, it comes off of his record,” said Michael. “His liability in the whole thing was $25,000. A little piece of that went to Jordan’s bills, another piece went to Vanessa’s bills, and another piece went to mine. But I’m still looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.”

The couple has asked the Cherokee Nation for assistance, and hopes their request pans out.

“But if not, we’ll have to declare bankruptcy,” said Michael.

Though they had hoped to be present for Spencer’s court appearance to make a victim’s impact statement, the Foutch family was not notified in time. Since then, the need to speak their piece – to perhaps prevent something like this from happening to another family – has weighed heavily on their minds.

Michael said that at first, he knew exactly what he’d like to say and how to say it. But as the years dragged on between the accident and the actual court date, he really just wanted to forget about it.

“All I’ve done is try not to think about it,” said Michael. “The fact it took him three years to be a man and admit it – well, what I would say to him now would get me thrown out of a courtroom. Knowing he put a little girl in a wheelchair and killed a little boy, I just don’t know what to say.”

Michael said his wife, Vanessa, feels the same way. But his mother, Kathy Sumner Foutch, “has quite a bit to say.”

Kathy provided the Daily Press with the written statement she would have read in court to Spencer had she been provided the opportunity. In part, it reads:

 

To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.

Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ts-Trail-show-1.jpg Jackson takes prize

    Cherokee Heritage Center Museum Curator Mickel Yantz kicked off his 10th anniversary at the venue with the opening of the 43rd annual Trail of Tears Art Show this past Friday.
    “The Trail of Tears show was my first exhibit opening when I arrived 10 years ago,” said Yantz. “Since that time, the show has changed so dramatically; we’ve added so many new artists, and the art work has excelled over time. It’s like Christmas for me.”
    Yantz said he was exceptionally pleased with the opening reception.
    “We had a fantastic turnout,” said Yantz. “We had a lot of fun and sold some artwork, which is great for opening night.”
    The exhibit is on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center through May 26. This year’s show features 130 pieces of art spanning eight different categories, including basketry, graphics, jewelry, miniature, painting, pottery and sculpture.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • churchguy.jpg Some NSU students find Church of Monett offensive

    They turn heads every time they show up on campus, and some students at Northeastern State University are offended by their presence.
    The Church of Monett, Mo., has made periodic trips to Tahlequah to stage quiet demonstrations in public campus spaces in recent years. They carry signs that read, “Wives, Obey your Husbands,”; “To be Married to the divorced is Adultery”; and “Don’t be deceived: fornicators homosexuals idolaters adulterers thieves drunkards - shall not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teen sent to hospital after being struck by tractor-trailer

    An 18-year-old Tahlequah man was struck by a tractor-trailer early Tuesday morning on the State Highway 51 bypass near Mimosa Lane.
    Tahlequah Police Capt. Tom Jones said officers responded to the scene at about 5:40 a.m., when Sage Sohns was found injured and lying in the road. A medical helicopter responded to the scene to transport Sohns to a Tulsa hospital, where he was being treated for a closed-head injury, police said.

    April 16, 2014

  • TPS board hears architect presentations for cafeteria

    Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education heard from four architectural firms seeking a contract for construction at Cherokee Elementary School.
    TPS plans to build a cafeteria-auditorium and a music room with a stage, which may also serve as a safe room during storms.

    April 16, 2014

  • Briggs.jpg Local man hit with assault, burglary charges

    Prosecutors have formally charged a Tahlequah man accused of breaking into a motel room, tying a rope around a man’s neck and stabbing him repeatedly with a syringe.
    Jimmy Dale Briggs Jr., 33, is charged with first-degree burglary, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of threatening to perform an act of violence.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boy whose mom scolded deputies in trouble again

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 15-year-old theft suspect Monday night after he allegedly assaulted his brother.
    Deputy Kim Novak said authorities were dispatched to a home and ultimately took the teen into custody. While there, they also discovered items that had been reported stolen, including a bed and several tools.
    Novak said the teen is the same boy who has previously been found to be in possession of stolen items.

    April 16, 2014

  • plane-crash-1-a.jpg Plane crash victims recovering

    Two Arkansas men remained in a Tulsa hospital Monday after the plane they were flying crashed into a wooded area in Cookson.
    According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the 1946 Ercoupe 415 crashed under “unknown circumstances” about a mile from the Tenkiller Air Park in Cookson Saturday morning.
    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says 75-year-old John McCreary and 85-year-old Albert Demarco Jr., both of Ozark, Ark., were flown from Cookson to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • walker-terrance.jpg Man taken for blood sample confuses hospital with hotel

    Tahlequah police say an Austin, Texas, man stopped Saturday mistook a local hospital for a hotel when he was taken to have his blood drawn.
    Officer Cory Keele’s affidavit says 20-year-old Terrance Walker was driving south on Muskogee Avenue at about 2 a.m. Saturday, swerving from one line to another.
    Keele tried to stop the car near Muskogee and Chickasaw, and Walker eventually slowed to a stop near South Street.
    Walker opened the car door as Keele approached. The officer said Walker had dilated pupils.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • ennis-scottie.jpg Knife-cutting incident lands man in jail

    A Tahlequah man jailed for allegedly cutting a woman with a kitchen knife was released on a recognizance bond Monday.
    Scottie Lee Ennis, 42, was arrested after Officer Austin Yates was sent to Tahlequah City Hospital late Friday night.
    There, Yates spoke with Jennifer Pennell, who had apparently suffered a stab wound to her arm.
    Pennell told Yates she and her husband, Ennis, had gone to Dewain’s Place earlier in the evening, and while at the bar, a man bought her a drink.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • hawley-jeremy.jpg Tahlequah man bonds out after arrest for assault

    A 22-year-old Tahlequah man bonded out of jail Monday after his weekend arrest on domestic assault charges.
    Jeremy Hawley was booked into jail Sunday for domestic assault and battery in the presence of a minor and interfering with a 911 call.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks