Updated: Oct 2
In a very emotional scene, Megan Criniere addressed and offered forgiveness to Kyrie Fields at the official court sentencing on June 29, 2023. Fields hit and killed her husband, Charles Criniere, on August 27th, 2022, while texting and driving and high on Percocet. In this post, you find:
Megan's words in court to Kyrie Fields
"The last ten months have radically transformed our lives as a family. There isn't a single area of our lives that has not been impacted by the loss of my husband. The pain has been real and widespread. The loss has been immeasurable. The statements I'm going to make today are in no way a dismissal of the pain we have endured. But they are statements that reflect my own hope to journey through the pain and loss and not to remain there forever. My husband wasn't always a beloved teacher, and husband and father. I have not always been a stay-at-home mom. Not so long ago, my husband was on the opposite side of the story. In and out of the detention system in Chicago, struggling to stay out of trouble. Me, I was not in the detention system. Only because I never got caught. But I was running the streets in Chicago and involved in illegal activities. Life was a mess, and I couldn't even help myself. It was in those dark periods in our life that both my husband and I encountered a love and forgiveness with Jesus Christ that transformed our lives forever. It was only then that my husband went from being a high school dropout to being a high school teacher, getting his Master's degree. He was filled with a purpose to be a beacon of hope to those experiencing similar situations. It was only after an encounter with forgiveness that I left behind a destructive lifestyle. And in one decision, I saw my life pieced back together. It is in that same spirit I want to say I forgive the defendant. I don't want to live my life harboring bitterness in my heart. From where I'm standing and all I've experienced in my life, it only seems fitting to offer that same love and forgiveness that transformed our lives. I wish no harm. I hold no animosity. I choose to let it go. And instead, I pray that the defendant would experience a love and forgiveness that transforms their life and would give a hope for a better tomorrow." The Judge's Abnormal Response Ms. Criniere, that was one of the most eloquently put statements I have heard in the 30 years that I have sat on the bench. And I will tell you, you are one of a less than a handful of victims who have come before me to offer forgiveness to a defendant who has ripped a hole into the lives of another family like yours. I wish that this never had happened. And that your life would have been lived with your husband long and until the two of you were just too old to care for each other. And I'm sorry that that's not going to be the case for you. But I do believe that your willingness to forgive will give you peace so that you can move forward in your life. And I wish you the very best. I'm very, very sorry for your loss. Kyrie Fields Response I would just like to say, I was trying to write something but it was too difficult for me. I wanted to let you know that during this time you taught me how to forgive with you being able to forgive me. And I'm so deeply sorry for what I have caused you and your family. My life -- I had been living the wrong way since I was 17. And I'm so, so deeply sorry for what I have caused you and your family. Words can't explain what I did and I cannot take it back. I wish I could, but I can't. I don't know what to say, but you taught me how to find the Lord while I have been in here. And I'm so thankful for that. All I can say is I truly am so sorry for what I have caused you. And thank you in a way for teaching me how to have forgiveness. I'm sorry. Sorry.
Perspective from Close Friend - Ken DeBenedictis
It has barely been a year. Man, I miss that guy next door. Everything up to this point seems like a series of “firsts.” I can only imagine what it’s been like at the Criniere household. The first Christmas without him, the first birthday, the first anniversary, the first time going down to Branson as a family without him—none of it has been easy. It’s felt like an eternity since I last heard his voice, but at the same time, it’s felt like just a few moments ago since that morning. It’s such a weird paradox. Knowing that life still goes on but not wanting life to go on too much, knowing that if it does, somehow Charlie’s memory will be left behind? Is it normal to feel like this? It’s been a process. There were two big events coming up this summer that I had marked in my calendar. One was a trip my family and I were taking in August, the other was the trial at the courthouse for the driver who had hit and killed Charlie. I really wanted to be there— obviously to support Megan, but the other reason was just to see this person up close. I really needed to get a look at a person who could so callously drive away after running over someone, leave them to die in the street, and then go home and torch their own car to try to cover it up. What kind of a person was this? Was there going to be a jury? What would be their reaction? What would the defense attorney be saying to defend her? Would the driver look remorseful? Stone-faced?
Finally, after almost a full year of silence, we’d be getting some answers. But then it changed. After learning from one of Meg’s kids that the trial date had been moved up, I found out that the date had been moved up to today. In 45 minutes! I slammed the rest of my coffee down and hurried across the street to Meg’s to see what was going on. She came walking down the stairs after finishing up writing something and told me that the dates had been changed. There wasn’t going to be a jury trial, but rather because the driver had pleaded guilty, the sentencing would be today. She had spoken to Eric, Charlie’s brother, who was in town from Chicago and was already on his way over. None of the kids wanted to go so I asked if I could jump in with them. So the three of us took the thirty-minute drive into the city. When we got to the courthouse, the three of us walked through the elevator doors and into this dimly lit hallway. I half-expected it to be crowded and confusing. I figured there would be people waiting in line, multiple hearings going on, some sort of sign-in window and system telling people who was next. Kind of like the DMV on a Friday. But none of that was happening. It was like everything was closed. Just us, an empty hallway, a bench to sit down and the occasional ding of the elevator echoing off the marble walls. The young attorney showed up, introduced herself and spoke a little about what was about to take place. She spoke to us briefly and began trying to brace us for the intensity of the situation, and as she did, a handcuffed Kyrie Fields, the driver who hit Charlie, came shuffling out of the elevator and escorted into the courtroom by a corrections officer. The attorney explained a little more about the process, and then we all proceeded into the small courtroom and sat down where they told us. It was pretty much what you’d expect. A large bench for the judge to preside, a table in the middle of the room with Kyrie and her lawyer, two prosecuting attorneys, a bailiff, a stenographer, and us. We stood when the bailiff announced the “all rise,” and the officiating began. Names were stated for the record, the charges, the plea, and then the recount of the events that happened. I kept looking at Kyrie. No emotion. At least outwardly. I watched her as the recount of the tragic events on that morning at Longview Lake was being read. She sat there in her seat, looking down, not making eye contact with anyone. I couldn’t help but notice how beat-up she looked. Defeated. Like she had been totally shredded by life with no hope at all. It was hard to believe that this woman was only 27. Megan, Eric, and I just sat there in a row, taking it all in. We were invited to observe but not necessarily needed. We didn’t look at each other during all of this, so I couldn’t see the expressions on their faces, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in Megan’s mind. What Eric, the one who knew Charlie the longest, was thinking. Then I started wondering what Charlie was thinking. Was he here? Did it even matter? Before we knew it, the sentences were announced after Kyrie’s plea of guilty. Two counts, two felonies, four years total for each that run concurrently, with one year time already served. Gavel bang. That was it. Hard to believe. After all the shock and turmoil, after all of the lives that have been upended this past year, it all came to a conclusion. That senseless act of stupidity met an equally senseless consequence. Three years in prison. Maybe two if you factor in parole. It hardly seemed like justice. Then something wonderful began to happen. As if on cue, the attorney, on behalf of Megan, stood up and requested permission from the judge to allow Megan to make a statement. Megan apparently had scribbled something down before we left the house just an hour beforehand. She approached the judge and nervously unfolded a sheet of paper and began to read from it. As Megan humbly read her statement through tears and a shaky voice, each word seemed to pierce through whatever tension and disappointment there was in the room. All eyes were on her, there wasn’t a sound in the room. Kyrie’s wide eyes staring intently at this woman who was demonstrating the most brave and honest account of who Charlie was, who she was, and where they both had come from. Charlie himself was in and out of a detention system much in the same way that Kyrie found herself now. It was as if everything that was being said was being hand-delivered right into Kyrie’s heart. “My life was a mess. I couldn’t even help myself,” Megan continued. “It was in those dark seasons of our lives that both my husband and I encountered a love and forgiveness in Jesus that transformed our lives.” I looked over at Kyrie to see her brushing away the tears streaming down her cheeks. “It’s in that same spirit”, she went on, “that I want to say, ‘I forgive you’…it only seems fitting to offer you that same love and forgiveness that transformed our lives to you as well.” By this time, Eric, who was sitting next to me was sobbing. I looked over at the bailiff who was now wiping tears away, as was one of the attorneys, the judge was looking away fighting back tears trying to compose herself. Everyone in the room. From the lawyers to the stenographer—not a dry eye. When Megan was finished, Kyrie wanted to say something, which the judge allowed. She was pretty moved by what was happening. Through sobs, she expressed how sorry and remorseful she was. Apologizing again and again. Then she looked at Megan and thanked her for helping her find God and experiencing real forgiveness though all of this. I broke at this point, and again, this prompted another round of passing around the tissue box. Kyrie finished as the gentle sounds of sniffles traveled through the room. The judge broke the silence and addressed Megan as she stood there. She told us in all of her thirty-something years of practicing law, that she has never seen such a display of true forgiveness in the face of such overwhelming tragedy. She honored Megan in that moment and I believe she spoke for everyone in the room. A true miracle had just happened in our midst, and I felt so privileged to witness it. The meeting adjourned and we were dismissed. Megan, Eric and I gathered in the debrief room. Both attorneys were still in amazement over what had just happened. We were told that that judge was known for never displaying emotion of any kind in her courtroom, and that what we had witnessed, and what she had said to Megan was a pretty rare thing. We finished up, thanked the attorneys and left. The three of us walked down the hallway and into the elevator. None of us saying a word. “Wow.” Megan said. “That was intense.” As we walked back to the car, the silence continued. Each of us stewing in our own thoughts and emotions. It seemed so definite. Like if there was ever a need for closure, there it was in its most raw form. Closed. But even with this closed case, we know God. And with God, nothing ever really dies. Let’s be praying for Kyrie Fields. Jesus seems to be opening a door of salvation for her.
- Ken DeBenedictis