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‘Absolutely no need for it’: Family upset after police say DUI suspect killed 2

Updated April 26, 2024 - 9:10 am

They were likely headed out to do some shopping at Walmart, possibly get something to eat at McDonald’s.

But in an instant, a horror authorities blamed on a suspected impaired driver would strike the family of five who were standing at a Boulder Highway bus stop.

Two of them, a teenage boy and his stepdad, are dead. The boy’s mom was in a coma, and two of his younger siblings were on the road to recovery despite severe injuries, loved ones said.

For Frank Walklin, who has been like a grandfather to the children, the days since the crash have been a nightmare.

“It’s just horrible,” said Walklin, angry that anybody would choose to get behind the wheel while impaired, given all of the options available to drivers, such as ride-booking services, taxis or public transit.

“It’s preposterous,” he said. “There’s absolutely no need for it.”

Walklin’s former long-term partner, Elizabeth Reedy, with whom Walklin is still good friends, is the mother of Amber Reedy, who remains at University Medical Center and who turned 42 on Friday, her mother said.

“She heard a recording of the kids and she responded by opening her eyes and giving the thumbs up,” Elizabeth Reedy said, adding that her daughter has a “lot of work ahead of her.”

Elizabeth Reedy, 64, is also the grandmother of Amber Reedy’s son Erik McPherson, 14, who was killed.

“I have his Xbox and I can’t look at it,” Elizabeth Reedy said. “And I can’t look at any pictures.”

Amber Reedy’s husband, Robert Higgins, 42, was also killed.

While Higgins wasn’t the biological father of Reedy’s three children, he had stepped into the role of stepdad and was considered by the children to be their dad, Walklin said.

“Robert was something he didn’t have to be. He wasn’t a stepfather. He turned out to be those kids’ father,” Walklin said.

What happened to the family at 7:37 p.m. April 17 was shockingly sudden.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, a 64-year-old woman speeding the wrong way on Boulder Highway plowed her Kia Rio into the five family members, who live nearby and who were standing on the sidewalk near the bus stop southeast of Sahara Avenue, near Dalhart Street.

Cynthia Phelps faces five felony counts each of DUI and reckless driving resulting in death or substantial injuries, court records show. On April 18, her bail was set at $500,000.

McPherson and Higgins died at the scene, authorities and Walklin said.

Reedy’s injuries included a broken pelvis in multiple places and several skull fractures, Walklin said.

“I believe that she’ll wake up,” said Walklin, who said he had slept only a few hours in the few days after the crash while maintaining a constant presence at the hospital.

Two children ‘doing a lot better’

Amber Reedy’s two other children, 11-year-old Isabella “Bella” McPherson and 8-year-old Roman Ferris, were recovering from their injuries.

“They are doing a lot better,” Walklin said.

Roman’s injuries included fractures throughout his pelvic region, three broken ribs, a lacerated spleen and a bruised lung, Walklin said, adding that the boy was actually run over by the vehicle but somehow survived and was even able to talk about it.

“He looked at us and he said, ‘Grandpa, I got runned over,’ ” Walklin said, describing what the boy told him when he and other relatives arrived at the hospital after the crash.

Isabella suffered a broken femur, broken tibia and broken ankle, as well as a cracked orbital and minor brain swelling. Walklin said she’s been racing around in a wheelchair.

Walklin wanted to give an example of the kind of boy, Erik, a student at Cortney Junior High School, was. Walklin said he had heard from the mother of one of Erik’s schoolmates.

“She basically said that Erik helped her daughter through people bullying her — he always stood up for her. That’s the kind of guy he was,” Walklin said. “He hated bullies.”

‘Strong odor’ of booze, police allege

At the scene of the crash, police said, a “strong odor” of alcohol emanated from Phelps’ breath, who told officers she believed she had suffered a seizure and didn’t remember the collision.

Police alleged in an arrest report that Phelps had not tried braking before smashing her car into the bus stop.

“I’m beyond angry, dude,” Walklin said. “There’s no absolutely no reason for her to get behind the wheel. There’s no reason for anybody to get behind the wheel of a car nowadays. I mean how many ride shares, taxi services, buses? You’re just a selfish person. You think only of yourself when you do that.”

A GoFundMe has also been set up to help the family with expenses incurred by the crash. As of Saturday it had raised over $7,800 toward its goal of $20,000.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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