Toxicology Results Released in Fatal Johnston Motorcycle Accident

When a very experienced prosecutor from a county attorney’s office that aggressively prosecutes vehicular death cases dismisses a death-related charge outright, one should stop, contemplate, and ask, what more to this story has not been told?  For Makenna Streff, there is much more to the story than has been reported relating to the traffic accident that took the life of Landon Crabtree.  It is her turn to share her side of the story.

Headlines have read: “Woman who caused deadly motorcycle crash to stay out of prison.”  “Iowa mother furious over charges in deadly crash.” They plaster Makenna’s name and photograph all over the internet.  These stories draw out repulsive public comments that most social media sites would even censor.  The basis for the fury is the misconception that Makenna was drunk at the time of the accident.  As reported to KCCI, the mother, Landon Crabtree stated: “This is not right.  This is not justice.  She was drunk.  It said in all the reports she was drunk.”[1]

As any informed adult in Iowa should know, the legal alcohol concentration to operate a motor vehicle for a person over the age of 21 is .08.  Makenna was over 21 years of age.  As the public should also appreciate, the most scientifically and medically accurate way to measure a person’s blood alcohol level is to directly test the percentage of alcohol in the person’s blood.

Makenna submitted to the withdrawal of her blood for this testing process.  Her blood was withdrawn by qualified medical personnel.  Her blood was transported to the State of Iowa Criminal Investigation Laboratory by law enforcement, where the State scientists conducted scientifically valid tests to determine the percentage of alcohol in her blood.  The State of Iowa Criminal Investigation Laboratory reported scientifically accurate results for the percentage of alcohol in Makenna’s blood.

Makenna Streff’s blood test result was .032!  Less than HALF of the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in Iowa.  In fact, Makenna could have legally operated a commercial motor vehicle at that level!  She was NOT drunk.  To be thorough, Makenna’s blood was also tested for the presence of drugs.  NEGATIVE! The scientific evidence definitively established that Makenna Streff did not commit the offense of operating while intoxicated. Indeed, she was legally sober.  The results can be accessed here.

Makenna’s case is an unfortunate example of the dangers of knee-jerk conclusions premised upon incomplete investigations.  Law enforcement is not required to arrest an individual at the earliest possible moment.  However, once they arrest the individual, they cannot unarrest the person, and the timeline for the prosecution to proceed is started.  Often, especially in serious case investigations, discerning and experienced law enforcement investigators wait until the full investigation is completed and prosecutors are consulted before the final charging decision is made.

Unfortunately, in this case, decisions were made to arrest and charge Makenna before toxicology results were received, before the accident investigation was completed, and before prosecutors were given an opportunity to review the entirety of the investigation.

This investigation also uncovered significantly more information that likely factored into the prosecution’s decision to dismiss all but the traffic offense charge.  However, out of respect for Mr. Crabtree and his family, Makenna has chosen to leave that part of the story untold.  This demonstrates Makenna’s character, class, and respect for the loss suffered by Mr. Crabtree’s family.  This is the same character that led Makenna to waive her right to prevent a victim impact statement from being given at her sentencing. Instead, Makenna voluntarily allowed Mr. Crabtree’s family to air their anger, frustrations, and pain.

Losing a friend or family member to a sudden traumatic event creates a gaping abyss in the lives of the surviving loved ones.  It hits with a sudden burst of disbelief and takes considerable time to be processed and ultimately understood as a tragic reality.  The numbness and recurring bouts of grief, frustration and anger seem to be endless.  However, it should always be remembered that there are two sides to every tragedy.  Survivors of traumatic events suffer similarly.  They must still live with and endure the haunting nightmares associated with the experience and the pain, regret, and second-guessing that accompany it.

It is irresponsible and inhumane to not seek out or consider the other side of the story.  The other side of Makenna Streff’s story is that she was not drunk.  She was not impaired. Makenna will live with this tragic accident for the rest of her life, but she did not commit an offense other than a simple traffic violation.  To use GRL vernacular, we welcome Makenna to Team NFG.