WAUPACA – Some Waupaca area residents say they are finally getting a taste of justice, nearly two years after losing their friend and family member, 18-year-old Dylan Thorne, in an alleged drunken driving crash.
Friday morning, Heather Schmidt , who is accused of killing Thorne, appeared in court for the first time.
Family and friends say they waited since July of 2012 for this day. Police say that’s when a vehicle crossed the center line and hit Thorne’s vehicle head-on.
However, the case wasn’t the only thing getting attention in the courtroom.
Wearing the community’s familiar orange and black, dozens of Thorne’s family members and friends filled the courtroom.
“This is nothing to what was at his funeral,” said Dave Albers, a family friend.
“That’s what has kept me strong through this whole thing has been the moral support of the friends, the families, the communities,” said Liz Thorne, Dylan’s mother.
Judge Philip Kirk says people have the right to show support for a common cause, just not in the courtroom.
“The courtroom is not the place for a pep rally,” said Kirk.
Kirk told everyone wearing orange to either remove it or leave.
“I’ve never seen such an injustice to their family,” said Tina Albers, a family friend. “I don’t understand it.”
“That’s the reason I wanted to nip it in the bud because if you had 35 or 40 people showing up in that fashion it would not create an impartial environment for a jury to sit and listen to the evidence,” said Kirk after court.
While Kirk’s demand was upsetting to some, many said a 20-month wait to see this day was too long in the making to miss. Heather Schmidt made her initial appearance on two felony homicide charges, both by using a vehicle under the influence.
“When I finally found out that she was served, the next day was like the first day in 19 months that I woke up and I was relieved,” said Thorne’s mother.
After court was done, FOX 11 wanted to ask District Attorney John Snider what took so long to file charges in this case. He said he doesn’t do on-camera interviews and even refused to answer questions off-camera.
“It’s been devastating, waiting, knowing she is walking free and gets to spend 20 months with her children when they didn’t get to say goodbye to their son at all,” said Tina Albers.
“There is an end in sight and I’m just relieved that it’s just finally starting. It’s finally happening,” said Liz Thorne.
After court, Schmidt and her attorney left before FOX 11 could ask them for an interview.
Schmidt was issued a $50,000 signature bond.