CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The driver who killed two Shenendehowa teens and seriously injured their friends is once again a free man. After spending 9.5 years in prison for the alcohol and drug fueled fatal crash, Dennis Drue was released from prison, six months shy of his November conditional release date.
In 2012, motorist Dennis Drue killed high schoolers Deanna Rivers and Christopher Stewart and seriously injured their friends, Bailey Wind and Matt Hardy, when his Volvo struck their vehicle on the Northway. In 2013, Drue was sentenced to 5-15 years in prison after admitting to being drunk and high at the time of the of the crash. The New York State Department of Corrections told NEWS10 Drue was released from Collins Correctional Facility in Collins, New York Thursday morning and will be supervised by the department of parole in Albany County.
He was denied parole three times but was granted release under something called “Limited Credit Time Allowance.” According to NYS DOCS, it is based on programs that Drue completed as well as good behavior while incarcerated.
“He’s getting out at the age of 32, you know,” said Christopher’s father, Michael Stewart. “So, he has his entire long life ahead of him. Christopher only had 17 years.” Stewart told NEWS10’s Anya Tucker that his family continues to play an active role in victims’ rights. “And we will continue to do so in the coming years. But at the same time, we want to know for sure that Mr. Drue is adhering to all of his mandated restrictions.” He says he’s been told those restrictions include no driving as well as alcohol and drug testing.
Deanna’s parents, Brian and Debbie Rivers, shared this statement: “It is a sad day for our family as our fight for justice is forced to end with Dennis Drue’s early release from prison today. When another human kills your child and sibling you do not get over it. It will never be okay that he gets to live his life as he is the one to blame for Deanna not living hers. His one decision destroyed our family and a whole community. How dare he come back to the 518 raising everyone’s fears and anxieties. He stole the presence of Deanna from our family and for that we will never, ever forgive him.”
“This was a case that was totally avoidable,” said Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. Heggen did not prosecute the case back in 2012, but she was a chief trial assistant in the DA’s office when the crash happened. She says she hopes it will serve as a haunting reminder to those taking a chance with driving while under the influence. “That hopefully is something that continues to resonate in a positive way. That people make sure they make the right choice when faced with that kind of situation.”
Christopher and Deanna’s families have pushed to enhance the rights of victims when it comes to the parole process. NEWS10 reached out to Dennis Drue’s former defense attorney, Steve Coffey, who said he could not comment on his release from prison.