FAIRBANKS – A Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered an elderly woman to pay more than $400,000 to the family of an 11-year-old boy who the woman ran over and killed as he walked to school more than a year ago.
Yiki Kim, 69, is serving a 3 1/2-year sentence for criminally negligent homicide in the Aug. 30, 2011, death of Jamison Thrun, who was walking to University Park Elementary School with his younger brother. Kim failed to make a right turn, and her SUV jumped the curb and slammed into Jamison, who was standing about 30 feet off the road.
Kim originally was charged with manslaughter and reckless driving but agreed to plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide in exchange for a prison sentence of no more than four years in jail. She was sentenced in June.
Following a three-hour restitution hearing at Rabinowitz Courthouse, Judge Bethany Harbison ordered Kim to pay approximately $420,000 in restitution to the Thrun family. The total amount was not immediately available following the hearing because it had not been tabulated.
Assistant District Attorney David Buettner presented an itemized list of 35 expenses, complete with receipts, incurred by the family as the result of the boy’s death and asked Kelly Thrun, Jamison’s mother, to explain each one.
The expenses included everything from roughly $100,000 in medical and funeral bills to $17,000 in missed work time for the parents to more than $200,000 in past and future counseling sessions for the family. The list included 11 white spruce trees planted in the back yard at a cost of $9,000 to serve as a memorial to Jamison and a $3,255 bench that now sits next to the grave site.
“Restitution serves two goals, restoring victims and making those responsible for their conduct pay for their actions,” Buettner told Harbison. “These are reasonable expenses, and all are related to them coping with the loss of their son.”
While acknowledging most of the restitution expenses were legitimate, Kim’s attorney, Gary Stapp, noted that the Thrun family has received $221,064 from their and Kim’s insurance company for medical and other expenses and questioned whether the family should receive money for items that already were paid through insurance. He also noted the Thrun family has a civil suit pending against Kim.
Harbison said legal precedent prohibits money paid by insurance companies or other third parties, as well as money potentially awarded in a civil suit, to be considered part of a restitution judgment.
The state initially requested a restitution judgment of $435,724.60, but Harbison denied about $15,000 of expenses cited by Buettner, including the trees in the back yard and the bench at the grave site.
While those expenses were “reasonable and understandable,” Harbison said, they go beyond what the law allows. Other expenses she denied included almost $700 worth of T-shirts and buttons with Jamison’s picture on them that the family had made for friends and family to wear at Kim’s trial; a $600 cross made by a neighbor to serve as a memorial for Jamison; a $691.20 ad the family took out in the newspaper to thank those who supported them; and $300 worth of topsoil and lawn care equipment to plant grass on Jamison’s grave.
One of the biggest expenses as part of the restitution judgment was for continued counseling for the family. All four family members, including Jamison’s two younger siblings, have been receiving counseling since two weeks after Jamison’s death and will need to undergo counseling for about nine more years, according to professional counselor Joni Simpson, who served as a witness at Thursday’s hearing.
Simpson, who has been seeing the family since the accident, said the Thrun family “absolutely” needs more counseling to cope with the loss of Jamison.
“The amount of depression and sadness and adjusting this family is doing on a daily basis I think without support of counseling for the next 10 years there’s no doubt in my mind this family would deteriorate,” she said.
Dressed in yellow prison garb with her hands and legs shackled, Kim did not speak at the hearing other than to confer with Stapp, her attorney.
Kelly Thrun, wearing a button with her son’s picture and “Justice for Jamison,” said the family is “swimming in debt” as a result of her son’s death.
“We are not in the financial situation to pay these bills,” she said. “We want help with the financial burden this has cost.”
One of the expenses, which Harbison denied, was $444.55 for a new bed the family bought for Jamison’s younger brother, now 10, after he refused to sleep in the one he had because it reminded him of his brother.
Another expense, which Stapp did not protest after conferring with Kim, was $250 to install a gate in the fence between the family’s home and the school so Jamison’s younger brother wouldn’t have to walk each day on the way to the school by the spot where Jamison was killed.
When Stapp asked her if the family had done anything to minimize their expenses following Jamison’s death, a teary-eyed Kelly Thrun took a deep breath before answering.
“I would bring flowers to my son’s grave every single day if I could afford it, but I can’t,” she said.
Likewise, Thrun said, the family probably would have sold their house if they hadn’t bought it just after moving to Fairbanks from Nome before Jamison’s death.
“I have to drive by that corner every single day on my way to work, and it hurts,” she said.
Stapp said Kim doesn’t have any money and will be hard-pressed to pay the restitution. She sold the only valuable she had, her 2005 Toyota Highlander, for $13,000 after the accident. That money went to the Thrun family.
“If my client was a millionaire, we wouldn’t be here today,” Stapp said. “She would have just paid it all.”
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.