It was lunchtime on
Dienavs would not make it back from the short trip across
The active woman’s death came as a shock to her family but affected no one as deeply as her husband,
“He completely shut down,” she said.
Her father, also 84, had not been as healthy as his wife. Until recently, he continued to live in the
Casey’s sister, who lives in town, had been checking on him twice a day, but his condition worsened and she eventually moved in.
“He declined rapidly after my mom died,” Casey said.
Doctors struggled with her father’s diagnosis, she said.
“There was nothing they could find,” Casey said. The two sisters eventually were told, “We think it’s severe depression.”
Both Valda and
Both had seen a lot, Casey said. Her father was roused from his sleep and had to leave in the middle of the night to get to safety. Her mother took refuge in a dank basement with her family while fleeing the
A sponsor paid for Valda’s family’s trip to
It was in
Good listener, extraordinary cook
Casey has pleasant memories of her mother, a warm, nurturing woman who was a good listener.
Dienavs would have a glass of homemade lemonade and cookies waiting for the two girls after school, she said, adding, “She always wanted to hear about our day.”
Dienavs was a stay-at-home mom when the sisters were young. She later worked in the insurance industry. When she retired, she gardened and cooked even more.
“She was an extraordinary cook,” Casey said. “She really picked that up in the last 20 years or so.”
Gardening was a shared passion, she said.
“Neighbors commented that my parents always gardened together,” Casey said. “She was just someone who loved to be outdoors. And that’s what the two of them loved doing together.”
Her parents would come to Casey’s
“My husband and I were pretty clueless about how to maintain a yard,” she said. “They would weed and trim and plant. My mom was very, very fit” and, even at her age, medication-free.
When Casey traveled for her job as an IT consultant, her mother would come over “with amazing amounts of food,” even though Doug was perfectly capable in the kitchen, she said. Casey would see pictures of the meals and think, “Oh my God, I wish I was home.”
Dienavs was “the most generous, selfless person,” Casey said. When someone talked to her, that person was “the center of the world. She would make everyone feel like they were that important person.”
Her mother’s nurturing was discreet, she said. She didn’t smother people with kisses.
“She would slip her hand into your hand. You never would notice she was doing that,” Casey said.
Until she was gone. That dreadful day, as Valda lay lifeless on the street where Casey grew up, Casey had to fight the urge to slide her hand under the plastic covering and slip her hand into her mother’s.
‘Not thinking clearly’
Casey understands that teenagers’ minds work differently. Her twins, Lauren and Owen, are 19.
“The teenage brain, it’s not fully developed,” Casey said. “They’re not thinking clearly.”
Still, she wishes the 17-year-old who police said struck her mother had stopped after the accident, or at least listened to her friends who urged her to talk to the police, she said.
Investigators learned that the teen continued on her way to meet friends for lunch and lied to them, and to police, about what had happened that day, saying a woman had fallen backwards onto her SUV, the arrest warrant affidavit says. The document does not identify the teen because of her age.
Police also learned the teenager was on and off her cellphone around the time she struck Dienavs. And a week after the accident, investigators found about a half-ounce of marijuana in the SUV she had been driving, the affidavit says, although it’s not clear to whom the pot belonged. She was not charged with drug possession or distracted driving.
Generally speaking, it’s difficult to prove a driver was using a cellphone without a hands-free device at the precise time of impact in collisions, Lt.
The teen was charged with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor; evading responsibility, a felony and failure to drive to the right, a motor vehicle infraction. Her arraignment is scheduled in
The charge of evading alone, could lead to a 10-year prison term in adult court, but that and the negligent homicide charge might be transferred to juvenile court, said
In the meantime, Casey has nothing but gratitude for the cheerleader who, with her father, came forward the night of her mother’s death and told police she heard the teen’s friend say at practice that the teen might have been involved in the deadly accident.
“We’re so grateful that [she] came to the police station,” Casey said.
(c)2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.