GILLETTE, Wyo. — A former Greenville resident’s life came to an abrupt halt on Nov. 18, 2012, when he was killed by an intoxicated driver on Interstate 90.
Larry Schofield had stopped to help a stranded motorist by the side of the road when he was run over by a pickup truck driven by Justin Lynn Helsper, 27 at the time, who then fled the scene.
It was Helsper’s third drunk driving offense and his second hit and run.
It has taken over a year for Schofield’s family — many of whom still live in the area — to see justice served on the man who killed him. Though he was quickly apprehended, Helsper has for the past year used a series of legal maneuvers — hiring and then firing attorneys and applying for numerous continuances — to avoid prosecution. Finally, a judge said enough, and denied any further delaying tactics.
And so, on Jan. 27, Helsper finally entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors, who are recommending a sentence of 14 to 18 years. As part of his plea agreement, Helsper admitted to drinking heavily at a bar in Gillette earlier in the day to the point that he has no memory of events prior to waking up in jail. A sentencing date of April 1 has been set.
According to Schofield’s sister, Cindy Lillie of Greenville, that sentencing will at least give the family some sense of closure.
“Nothing is going to bring back Larry,” Lillie said. “But there’s been no peace, no closure. We still have lots of people asking what’s happening.”
Lillie said she’s normally a “forgiving person,” but considering Helsper’s long list of past offenses, she’s hoping he receives the maximum sentence allowed by the terms of the plea agreement.
The family’s angst over the continued legal delays is compounded by the fact that Helsper’s parents live three doors down from several of Schofield’s relatives in Wyoming. Also, Helsper has spent much of the past two years free on bond.
“When any of my relatives would drive by, they’d see him (Helsper) standing in the yard with his friends, laughing and talking,” Lillie said. “They couldn’t avoid him.”
Schofield moved to Wyoming more than 40 years ago, to seek his fortune in the coal boom then happening there. He married and raised a family, three children, now grown — Jim, Scott and Kelly — who reside in different states around the country.
In Greenville, Schofield leaves behind two brothers and sisters-in-law and several nieces and nephews. Schofield also had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the time of his death. His plan had been to retire within the year and travel around the country reconnecting with family.
Now that a sentencing date has been set, other members of Schofield’s family have weighed in.
“I’m glad to see justice finally done for my dad,” said daughter, Kelly Schofield.
Haley Schofield, a granddaughter, noted that no matter what the sentence come April 1, it will never fully put to rest the pain and sense of loss Schofield’s passing has caused for the family.
“(For) everyone … who knew Larry Schofield, papa, he is very deeply missed and nobody will be able fill this empty spot on all of our hearts,” Haley Schofield related. “We love and miss (him) very much.”