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February 8, 2003

Justice halts again for man who lost hearing dog

From: Greenley Tribune, CO - 08 Feb 2003

Story by Jennifer Stanley

Eric Fifer wore a flag-printed tie and red, white and blue ribbon pinned on his jacket Friday when he appeared in Weld District Court. The gesture was in memory of his dog, Fancy, which died on Flag Day last year.

Fifer had hoped to tell Judge Daniel Maus how a man who pleaded guilty to DUI had changed his life.

Instead of sentencing Kent Christian, 51, Maus issued a warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear for the sentencing hearing. Once he is found, his bond of $5,000 will be revoked and raised to $10,000.

On June 14, Fifer was driving his minivan west near the intersection of Colo. 14 and Weld County Road 13. He is deaf, and Fancy, his hearing dog, was sitting next to him in the passenger’s seat.

As Fifer drove, Christian, who was driving while drunk, swerved across the center line and hit the van. Fancy died within minutes, and Fifer suffered neck and back injuries that he still struggles with today.

Christian, of Fort Collins, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, habitual traffic offenses and careless driving causing injury. He has other DUI charges in Fort Collins and a warrant out of Florida for failing to appear in court.

Fifer, 34, has donated money contributed from people throughout the region to International Hearing Dog Inc., where he got Fancy. The fund will help Fifer get another companion when he’s ready.

He was looking forward to telling the judge his story. Friday he just reflected on how justice has been delayed for the second time. Christian was to be sentenced in December, but because of a paperwork error it was delayed.

Fifer, who teaches at Front Range Community College and University Schools, wants the judge to know that on June 14 he lost a companion that warned him when the fire alarm went off and when someone knocked on the door.

“I’m very frustrated. I was ready to state my case. He’s not taking any responsibility,” Fifer said through a sign-language interpreter, Debbie Glines.

“I don’t know how Kent feels. I do remember that he said he felt bad for the victim and wanted to move on with his life,” he said. “I thought ‘I want to move on with my life.’ My goal is to see him get off the road. Then I’ll feel safe again.”

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