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|Their unhealed wounds - Sunday, April 28, 1996
|Editor's Note: On Feb. 20, 1982, David Lias and Tammi Lynn Waryck died, the victims of a drunken driver named Herman Anderson who later said the experience had changed his life. He served his prison term. Then, last year, he was sentenced again for drunken driving. Still grieving over their lost children 14 years later, the families of the victims wonder: When will anderson kill someone else?
By Torsten Ove
|Drunken driver caused two deaths and he's had trouble with the law since that day
Herman Anderson said he was sorry.
He walked into the courtroom with a Bible tucked under his arm and said he'd found God.
Jail changed him. Scared him. So he got religion.
His mother agreed that he was a new man. So did his sister. And his brother. And his wife.
Yes, he'd killed those two young people, David Lias and Tammi Lynn Waryck that early February morning in 1982.
Yes, he was driving drunk when he rounded a bend on Route 151 in Independance Township and plowed his car into 30-year-old David and 20-year-old Tammi as they stood next to their cars.
David, the good Samaritan, had stopped his prized El Camino to help Tammi and a friend with Tammi's stalled Gremlin.
They both died instantly when Anderson's Ford sedan smashed into them. The impact knocked David 100 feet and Tammi 70 feet. Anderson never bothered to stop, leaving his victims lying mangled on the highway.
But it was all an accident.
Isn't that what Anderson, then 27, told the judge before he was sentenced to prison in October of that year?
I didn't mean to hurt anyone, he said. There was nothing I could do. Why am I being punished?
Anderson's brother Larry told the judge that Herman was no criminal and shouldn't be locked away for the kind of accident that "can happen to anyone."
One of his attorneys, John Hudacsek, described Herman as "one of the most changed individuals that I have ever represented in all the years I have been before this court."
David's parents, Gladys and David Lias of Franklin Park, and Tammi's parents, Frank Waryck and the late Sally Waryck of Hopewell Township, sat in that courtroom 14 years ago and boiled with rage.
They didn't believe Anderson had discovered anything divine while awaiting his sentence behind bars in the Veaver County Jail. They still don't, especially now.
Because last year, Herman Anderson was again charged with drunken driving, this time in Midland, his hometown. It was another of his many encounters with the law over the years. He was sentenced in February and spent 16 days in jail.
Fourteen years have passed since the fatal crash.
David and Tammi are still dead.
Their parents still grieve.
And Herman McKinley Anderson, now 40 and living in Moon Township, is still being arrested for crimes and remains a threat to everyone who drives.
"Everybody says he'll get his day eventually," David Lias Sr. says through his tears. "I'm waiting and it hasn't come yet.
"But my day's here every day."
No one knows where David Lias was heading to or coming from the morning of Feb. 20, 1982.
He would often work late, sometimes until 3 a.m., tooling away in the auto-body shop he'd opened on the North Side of Pittsburgh before heading home to his trailer in Raccoon Township.
At about 2:30 a.m. on Route 151 in Independence Township, not far from Independence School Road, he came across two young women in a stalled Gremlin.
David was a skilled mechanic, a man who could fix anything with his hands, especially cars. It simply wasn't in him to drive past a stranded motorist.
So he pulled over his El Camino to see what he could do.
Tammi Lynn Waryck and Sherri Wozniak, both 20, were on their way home to Hopewell after dancing the night away at a club in Chester, W. Va. Tammi's father, Frank Waryck, had been having trouble with the family's Gremlin, and he'd told her not to drive it any long distances.
But she did anyway, and on Route 151, about two miles from her Hopewell home, the lights dimmed, the battery died and the car broke down.
After Lias jump-started the engine, the young women climbed back inside and David got back into his own car. He then instructed them to follow his car to the top of the hill, where street lights would allow him a closer look at the problem. They had driven about a mile when the bumper of the Gremlin became entangled with the bumper of the El Camino. The cars stopped on a curve in the road.
David climbed out to check the locked bumpers, then walked back to his car to grab a flashlight.
Tammi opened her door, too, and began to step out.
Just then, a light blue Ford sedan heading west rounded the curve at the top of the hill at better than 60 mph.
The car glanced off the El Camino and rammed into David and Tammi, shattering them like a hammer crushing two eggs.
They both died instantly.
The Ford kept going.
|Drinking in uncle's bar
On the night of Feb. 19, 1982, Herman Anderson left his brother's house in East Liverpool and drove to Midland in his Ford, where he played video games and drank six 12-ounce cans of Stroh's beer at Carl's Lounge, his uncle's bar.
After he left, he drove to his mother's house in Midland and to a gas station in Beaver. Then he decided to visit his wife in Weirton, W. Va., and headed west on Route 151.
At about 2:45 a.m. he rounded a corner on the downgrade and crashed his car into an El Camino stopped in the opposite lane. His car then plowed into two people standing next to their cars on the road.
Anderson continued on his way until, five miles farther down Route 151, his car slid off the ice road into a ditch.
Independence Police Officer James Noble, on his way to the fatal accident, stopped his cruiser when he saw Anderson standing in front of his car along the side of the road. But Anderson said nothing about hitting two people, and Noble drove on to the accident site where he found the bodies of David and Tammi strewn like discarded rags.
As Noble surveyed the area, another man at the scene who had stopped earlier to help Tammi mentioned seeing a "light blue vehicle." Noble remembered the car he had passed. He immediately jumped into his cruiser and raced back to the ditch where he'd first seen Anderson's Ford. He found Anderson behind the wheel, revving the engine in an effort to free the car.
After ordering Anderson out, Noble shined his flashlight on the front end of the Ford.
He saw fresh blood, hair fibers and pieces of flesh.
Later, at the Ambridge police station, a Breathalyzer registered Anderson's blood-alcohol level at 0.19 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.
Throughout that morning, Anderson belligerently told police at the station that he wasn't involved in the accident. Officers said he seemed more concerned about what would happen to his car than the deaths of two people at his hands.
And at one point, according to the court testimony, Anderson said angrily to the officers: "How come you honkies are bothering me?"
|Working the nightshift
Frank Waryck was working the nightshift at the LTV plant in Aliquippa when another foreman came to relieve him at about 5 a.m.
"Your wife wants you at home," the man said. "Your daughter was in an accident."
Waryck drove home in a near-panic, praying all the way.
His prayers weren't answered.
When he arrived, Sally told him Tammi was dead. They called their son, Frank Jr., who was skiing in Colorado. They called their other daughter, Traci, who was attending college at Penn State.
Then the mourning began, and the long, dark days of grief.
Gladys Lias had stopped by her mother's house on the way home from taking her recyclables to Sewickley. Her daughter called her there and said friends were calling the house in Franklin Park to say they'd heard on the radio at about 5:30 a.m. that David had been in an accident.
Gladys' brother was there. He called a state trooper he knew. Gladys watched as her brother talked on the phone. She noticed that he didn't say anything, that he only listened. Then he hung up.
"Gladdie, sit down," he said. "David was killed."
At the Lias home in Franklin Park, David's sister Carol could only stand and watch as her father--the rock of the family--began to cry and crumbled before her eyes.
The Warycks and Liases attended both funerals.
Tammi was laid out in an open casket, David's was closed; not enough of his face could be salvaged.
Richard Wozniak (no relation to Sherri) drove out to talk to the families a few weeks after the accident. Now the director of the Alcohol Highway Safety Program in Beaver County, he was a probation officer at the time, and it was his job to prepare an impartial report about the accident.
The memory has stayed with him ever since.
David Lias Sr. showed him his son's motorcycle boots, which had been blown off his feet by the impact of Anderson's car.
"Mr. Lias cried like a baby the whole day," he says. "I'll always remember that."
In the hours and days immediately after the crash, David Sr. and Gladys could barely function.
Gladys, in fact, needed tranquilizers to keep her calm.
It fell to Carol, who now lives in Montana, to take over the details.
She planned the funeral, she gathered up David's bills, she picked out the clothes in which he was buried--jeans and a Harley Davidson T-shirt.
David was the oldest boy in a family of five children. He grew up well, hunting and fishing in the woods behind his house, and early on he displayed his dad's mechanical know-how.
He'd gone to college for three years to become an industrial arts teacher, but he didn't like the other courses he had to take--literature, history--and dropped out.
His love for cars and motorcycles remained, and he devoted most of his time to fixing them and instrucing others to do the same. He'd even built his own Harley-Davidson from scratch, eventually investing $40,000 in the bike.
David Sr. still has the bumper of his son's El Camino, on which he also worked tirelessly. It still bears the bumper sticker from 14 years ago: "Have a nice day."
When he died, David was about to become a father, and he left behind his unborn son. He had sperated from his wife after a brief marriage, but she was pregnant. The boy is 14 now.
Strangely, David--"Dada" to his nephews and nieces--had always told his relatives and friends that he would never live past 30. He was right.
Tammi was the baby in the Waryck family, the youngest of three. Like her doting parents, she was deeply religious. She even started a live nativity scene at Ohio United Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, where her father still attends.
When she was 15, Tammi joined her church youth group on a missionary trip to Brazil, where she worked for a week helping to construct buildings for poor villagers.
As David Lias loved his motorcycles, Tammi loved panda bears. She collected all manner of pandas--ceramic bears, stuffed bears, mugs and cups with pictures of bears. She made a quilt once with images of pandas sewn on it.
And once, when Frank and Sally visited Arizona, Frank brought home a stuffed panda for Tammy. She cried when he gave it to her.
In a back bedroom at the Waryck home, the panda still sits atop the piano.
|Nice things to say
One by one, they came into the courtroom to say nice things about Herman Anderson.
A jury had convicted him of two counts of vehicular homicide, drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident, and now the judge was about to pass sentence.
"I hope Herman has another chance in life," said Johanna Perkins, Anderson's mother, "because I believe in my heart that he has learned by his mistake."
"Our family is very sorry about those people's lives out there, really, but you should be understanding people, " said Larry Anderson, his brother. "I can't see giving him a hard time for an accident."
Anderson himself took the stand, a Bible under his arm, and complained about the verdict.
"I feel it was unjustice (sic)," he said.
"I feel it wasn't fair, and I also feel bad about the accident, you know, how it took effect on my life."
Then he said he'd become religious after having "talked to God" while awaiting sentencing in the Beaver County Jail, where his nickname was "Homicide 2."
Hudacsek, his attorney, told the judge Anderson showed "deep remorse" and said his jail experience had changed his client profoundly.
The families of the victims didn't buy any of it.
"It was a game," says Carol. "It was a show."
The testimony was almost to much for David Lias Sr. to stomach.
Seated behind the Independence police chief, he noticed the officer's service revolver resting in its holster, just a few feet from his hand.
It was all he could do not to grab the gun and kill Anderson.
"That's the way I felt," says David Sr. today, now 70 and retired. "It took my other hand to hold the hand back."
In the end, Anderson served 18 months in state prison in Greensburg, a relatively stiff term for the time. But for the Liases and Warycks, it wasn't nearly enough.
"I'll tell you," says David Lias Sr., his eyes red, "it came damn close to killin' us both."
|Recovering from surgery
David Sr. was recovering from open-heart surgery when his son died. Gladys' health was shaky, too; after the accident, she kept blacking out. Both needed medication to keep them from falling apart.
David's death created a gaping void in their lives, and in the lives of their other children. Over the weeks and months and years each family member dealt with it in counseling sessions--and in their own private words.
David Sr. suffered long and hard, and still does. He built a cross to memorialize his son and planted it next to Route 151 near the accident site. Someone knocked it down within two months.
He had loved taking his son fishing and boating and water skiing, but his boat never saw the water again.
Gladys, meanwhile, couldn't listen to Charlie Daniels or Willie Nelson, her son's favorite musicians.
But she came to grips with her grief on Dec. 7, 1982, the day she says a vision of David came to her, a yellow light around his head, and hugged her.
"Mom," she remembers he said, "I'm happier now than I've ever been."
Gladys gained some peace from that experience, and eventually she became involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving when that program was just beginning.
Of the children, Carol suffered the most. David was her role model. She blames the collapse of her marriage in part on his death, and in some ways she seemed to be living his life for him. She talked of buying an El Camino, and she eventually did buy a Harley similar to his.
For the Warycks, faith became their anchor.
"We had a rough time accepting it," says Frank, now 64 and alone since Sally died in 1993. "We just figured it was God's will that she was taken home."
In a way,l Frank was grateful Tammi died instantly in the accident. Had she been crippled, he could not have endured it--and Anderson would not be around today.
"If she'd have been maimed," Frank says quietly, "I'm afraid I would have killed him."
As it was, the Warycks found it in themselves to forgive and go on.
Tammi's sister, Traci, was to be married that May. Tammi, who would have been 21 that month, was going to be maid of honor. The Warycks went through with the wedding, just the same.
Once, a lawyer asked Frank what he wanted from his insurance company.
"You can't give me what I want," he said. "Whether you get $10 or $100,000, I could care less. I want my daughter back."
In the end, the Warycks did recieve $92,000. It made their lives a little easier, if only in the physical sense.
The pain remained, and for Frank it would get worse. He lost his mother in 1989, his dad in 1990, his brother in 1991 and his wife three years ago. Yet Frank hasn't--and won't--succumb to bitterness.
"When there are things that happen that you have no control over, you just can't stop living," he says. "It would have been so easy for the wife and I both to really get angry and stay angry... (but) I'm here, I have to live. I can't crawl in a hole."
|Placed on parole
Herman Anderson got out of prison on Aug. 23, 1983, and was placed on parole.
But if he was the changed man he had claimed to be, he didn't show it.
To begin with, he repeatedly violated the terms of his parole and probation requiring him to report to his probation officer and to pay court costs and fines to Beaver County. According to court records, he violated his probation or parole four times, in 1985, 1987 and 1989. In 1987, in fact, a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to show up for a violation hearing.
In April 1986, he was arrested in Allegheny County on charges of aggravated assult, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. After spending time in the Allegheny County Jail, he was tried in December of that year, found guilty and sentenced to four concurrent terms of two years' probation for each charge.
In April 1989, he was wanted again for violating his probation, after which he spent most of June and July in the Allegheny County Jail.
Then, on Feb. 17, 1995, Midland police charged him with drunken driving. After an officer took him to the police station, Anderson refused to take a breath test. He also became argumentative and used obscene language despite repeated requests to stop. So police charged him with diorderly conduct as well.
A warrant was issued for him once again when he failed to show up for a preliminary hearing in April.
On Jan. 3 of this year, deputy sherrifs picked him up.
On Feb. 26, Anderson pleaded guilty in Beaver County Court and was sentenced by Judge Thomas Mannix to a jail term of 2 days to 18 months and ordered to pay court costs and a $300 fine.
He was also ordered to attend Wozniak's alcohol highway safety program. Because of confidentiality rules, Wozniak isn't allowed to say if Anderson showed up.
As for the sentence, Anderson recieved credit for the 16 days he spent in the Beaver County Jail in Janauary. He went to jail Jan. 3 and was released Jan. 19 after posting $1 bond.
Ordinarily, a second drunken driving offense mandates a sentence of at least 30 days in jail. But the law considers only those offenses that occured within seven years of the first. Anderson's previous conviction--in which he killed David and Tammi--occured 14 years earlier, before the new drunken driving laws went into effect.
Technically, he was even eligible for the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, an alternative to trial for first-time offenders.
At his sentencing for drunken driving on Feb. 26, Judge Mannix established conditions for Anderson's parole. In addition to attending the alcohol safety program and possible counseling sessions by Drug and Alcohol Services of Beaver Valley, Anderson had to "be of good behavior and avoid further arrest."
That's not something at which he's been particularly adept at, however.
In fact, Anderson is currently awaiting court action on another arrest, this time in Pittsburgh on Jan. 2. City police charged him with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of simple assault and one count of resisting arrest.
Anderson did not return a phone message left at his residence with his wife Lorraine, nor did he respond to messages left with his mother in Midland.
So the question goes unanswered: What happened to finding God?
"Maybe," Carol says, "he lost him again."
Gladys places a cardboard box full of newspaper clippings on her kitchen table.
David Sr. sits quietly next to her, his face ruddy, tears glistening in his eyes. A big Doberman lies at their feet. The Liases say the dog looks exactly like David's old Doberman.
Gladys opens the cardboard box with wrinkled fingers and gazes at the clippings.
"I keep tabs on that guy," Gladys says softly of Anderson.
When a brief item ran in The Times in February 1995 regarding Anderson's latest drunken driving arrest, Gladys felt a flash of anger and got on the phone to Montana.
"Carol," she said to her daughter, the wordsmith of the family, "write me a letter!"
The Liases know the statistics. For every time a driver is caught driving drunk, the National Highway Safety Administration estimates he's probably done it an average of 80 times before without getting caught. Anderson has been caught at least twice (he might have additional arrests in other states). That means he's probably driven drunk 160 times.
"He's still drinking," says David Sr., voice choked with anger. "He's been trying for 14 years to kill your daughter, your son, your mother, your brothers. Anybody. He's been trying. He keeps going, he's gonna do someone else.
"They call it an accident. It sure as hell is not an accident. It's just the same way you load a damn gun and you take it and you know there's a possibility you're gonna kill someone with that gun."
Hate? David Sr. has plenty of that, even now.
"I do," he says. "I'll never get it out of my system."
For her part, Gladys says she doesn't hate Anderson. Not anymore.
"You've got to learn to go on," she says, "even though it's tough as hell sometimes."
But the grief is still there. It never really goes away. David was killed on Feb. 20. The last time Gladys saw him was Feb. 16. Each February is an ordeal.
"From the 16th on, I count the hours," she says. "You'd think after 14 years it would start getting easier."
Maybe it will now that David's 14-year-old son, Nick, has started to come around and visit. The Liases met him for the first time last year. Now he wants to know about his father. Who was he? What was he like? And David Sr. and Gladys are only too glad to tell him.
|He forgives Anderson
Frank Waryck leans back in a chair in his kitchen. He will tell you he forgives Anderson, and there is no anger in him when he says it.
"There's two way of looking at things," he says slowly. "If you're holding a grudge, you can't live normally. When the judgement comes, he'll get his just reward. Why should I judge him? There's nothing I can do."
Nothing except remember his Tammi as she was.
Which is easy to do for a man who loved his daughter with his entire being.
Now, every time Frank goes shopping at the mall and passes a trinket shop, he sees them peering out from the shelves: Panda bears.
"I can spot 'em a mile away," he says. "I can just see 'em."
|I am feeling...
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