Catalyst for MADD Arrested Again : Drunk Driver Served 9 Months in Fatal 1980 Accident

From Times Wire Services

The drunk driver whose light prison sentence after a fatal accident five years ago led to the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was in jail again Thursday--on suspicion of felony drunk driving.

Clarence Busch, 51, who served only nine months in prison after pleading no contest to a vehicular manslaughter charge in the 1980 death of 13-year-old Cari Lightner, was arrested by the California Highway Patrol Wednesday night after an accident in which another young girl was hurt.

Arresting officers said Busch was intoxicated and had no driver’s license.

Candy Lightner, the angry mother of Cari Lightner who founded MADD in an effort to get tougher penalties for drunk drivers, now lives in Dallas. But she was visiting friends only a block from the scene of Busch’s latest arrest and was informed of it Thursday morning.


Explosive Reaction

Her reaction was explosive:

“Why is that man out of prison?” she demanded. “Why is he driving again? It’s all very well to say, ‘When will he learn he can’t drink and drive,’ but when is the rest of the world going to learn that you can’t let people like that off with a slap on the wrist or a warning?

“He should be put away for life!”

Because of the previous felony conviction, bail for Busch, who has a long record of drunk-driving arrests, was set at $200,000, and he remained in Sacramento County Jail Thursday.

CHP Sgt. Jim Elliott said a car driven by Busch illegally turned left on a red light at an intersection in north Sacramento Wednesday night, and crashed into a car driven by Carrie Sinnot, 19.

Treated for Bruise

The girl was released after hospital treatment of a bruise on her left arm.

Elliott said Busch “displayed symptoms of intoxication and failed manual dexterity tests conducted by a CHP officer at the scene. He was arrested for felony drunk driving and also as an unlicensed California driver.”

He said a blood sample taken from Busch after his arrest will be analyzed to determine its alcohol content.

According to records at the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Busch’s license expired in May, 1982, and the last notation on it was his arrest in May, 1980, after the accident that claimed Cari Lightner’s life.


Driver Left Scene

According to police reports, the girl was struck by a car as she walked to a church festival near her home in suburban Fair Oaks. The driver--later identified as Busch--roared away at high speed.

In November of that year, Busch pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years imprisonment when a judge ruled that his alcoholism diminished his capacity to make decisions and therefore was a mitigating factor.

He entered prison a month later, was paroled in September, 1981, and was permitted to move to Wisconsin.

In May, 1982, however, he was returned to prison in California as a parole violator.

Lied About Record

Board of Prison Terms records stated that he had illegally applied for a driver’s license in Wisconsin, saying he had no motor vehicle convictions during the previous five years, had operated a motor vehicle in violation of parole terms--and had lied to his parole officer on both counts.

He was freed again in February, 1983, was finally released from parole a year later, and had been living in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights.

MADD, which Candy Lightner founded in the garage of her home a few months after her daughter’s death, now has 340 chapters in 47 states, Canada, Great Britain and Guam.