As a Tarrant County prosecutor, Joshua Ross has handled countless cases involving drunk drivers.
But seven years ago, they took on a whole new perspective.
On September 26, 2006, Ross’ close friend and fraternity brother was killed by a drunk driver. Todd Levin and his girlfriend, Raylynn Healy, had just left a Houston movie theater when a drunk driver slammed into their car at a busy intersection. Levin died at the scene. Healy died later at an area hospital.
“They were t-boned by a drunk driver that ran a red light,” said Ross who attended the University of Texas at Austin with Levin.
Suddenly, Ross – who had prosecuted many DWI, intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter cases over the years – knew first-hand the devastation caused by drunk driving. He could personally identify with victims who had lost loved ones in DWI crashes.
“It changed my approach to those cases,” he said.
Shortly after Ross’ friend was killed, Deputy Chief District Attorney Richard Alpert asked Ross if he would consider giving a presentation at MADD’s Victim Assistance Training Institute (VATI) in Las Colinas. VATIs are week-long schools for MADD volunteers who want to become victim advocates. Since the early 1990s, MADD has invited Tarrant County prosecutors to give presentations about the handling of DWI and intoxication manslaughter cases.
“I was not aware of Josh’s friend,” Alpert said. “I asked him to do it because I liked and respected him and I perceived that he had a commitment to this issue.”
It proved to be a perfect fit. For the past seven years, Ross has spoken at numerous VATIs. Not only does he educate participants about the law and the prosecution of intoxication manslaughter cases, but he talks about Levin and the drunk driver who killed him. Recently, Ross wrote a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice opposing the parole of My Nguyen, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for Levin and Healy’s death.
“I’ve seen the devastation this crime causes to the families of the victims in both my work and my personal life,” Ross said.
Several years ago, Ross said he was taken aback when he looked out into the audience during a presentation and saw Levin’s older brother, who was training to become a victim advocate for MADD.
“It was bittersweet,” Ross said. “It was a surreal experience to see Todd’s older brother sitting there.”
Ross said he was honored to know Todd Levin and says he’s a better man for it. He believes MADD’s education campaigns can make a difference, which is why he continues to be part of them.
“At the end of the day if you feel like the world is a better place, then it makes what you are doing worth it,” he said. “That is how I approach it. Todd, his family, friends, and everyone else that was affected by his life is the reason that I’m doing this.”
- Melody McDonald, Public Information Officer