Former WWE star works to get results after daughter's death
Family wants changes to DUI laws to make them stricter for repeat offenders
ORLANDO, Fla. – A local former WWE star is now using his celebrity to get results after his daughter's death.
A trooper challenged Bill DeMott to use his influence to be the voice of drunk driving victims, and now he's working to educate kids, families and drivers – and change laws.
When DeMott steps into a school auditorium, he's nervous.
It doesn't matter that he's performed all over the world, on TV, in the ring, in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
He's nervous because this time, he's talking about his daughter.
"Keri, I just see her face," said DeMott.
But when the kids file in, he's ready.
"One decision made by someone else changed my family picture forever," said DeMott in front of a crowd of middle schoolers.
That decision was on Oct. 10, 2015. That was the day DeMott's 20-year-old daughter, Keri Anne, was killed by a repeat drunk driver.
He and his wife, Lacey, described how the family rule was that you do not miss curfew – everyone always comes home at night.
"We were in bed and she would always text me when she was on her way, so it was like 12:01 when I got the message," said Lacey DeMott.
"3:02 in the morning to be exact, Casey came in my room," said DeMott. "Boom, dad, instantly awake. I started getting dressed because nothing you're going to talk about at 3 o'clock in the morning is like, 'What do you want to do tomorrow?' Casey went and checked her room and she wasn't there, and she went and she checked the driveway and her car wasn't there, and she came in and she said, 'Dad, she's not home.' I looked at Lacey and said, 'I'm going to go get Keri."
But Keri Anne wouldn't be coming home.
"The guy in the other car was coming to the other direction and was driving on the wrong side of the road," said DeMott. "She didn't even have time to react. She got hit head-on... and she didn't make it. We had to go to the tow yard, claim her car, do all the stuff you should never have to do, and it's in your head forever. We came home and sat. We sat in this room and we just sat and all I wanted was for Keri Anne to come home; nothing else was going to happen until she came home."
That's when DeMott got the call from Trooper William Hitchcock that changed everything.
"He told me I have two options at this point, lack of a better term, sink or swim," said DeMott. "What are you going to do now? You have to go forward – not the thing I was ready to hear, but it was a tone in his voice and I almost felt challenged. Not in a bad way, but there's a line in 'TheUntouchables,' 'What are you prepared to do?'"
So to move forward, the family created The Keri Anne DeMott Foundation. The goal? Educate, raise awareness and change laws.
The man that hit and killed Keri Anne was a repeat offender.
"He knows the consequences of his actions and he decided to keep doing it and keep doing it and he killed my sister," said Casey DeMott.
"Keri's Law is going to ask for accountability," said DeMott. "We want to travel this nation."
Right now, judges can lower the punishments, even for repeat offenders. Keri's Law would make first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or greater unable to plead that charge down. A second offense of .10-plus would make it mandatory to install an ignition interlock system, which is a device a driver has to breathe into in order to start the car.
"With one pen, we can hold a nation accountable, so we don't have third, fourth, fifth offenders, we don't have repeat offenders, we don't have multiple DUI offenders out there taking lives, including their own; this is 100 percent preventable," said DeMott.
The foundation is also working to get local bars and restaurants to take Keri's Promise – and take more responsibility to make sure patrons have safe rides home.
In the meantime, DeMott realized the impact he could have with children after his family's first time speaking after a mock DUI at a local high school.
"Lacey, Casey and I went with not a really clear understanding of what was going to happen. The mock DUI happened and I didn't realize I put my wife and daughter right in front of the scene and they watched it all happen again. I watched it all happen again and then I had to stand in front of 1,500 students and let them know what they just saw was my life, what they just saw was my daughter and we just relived everything that just happened a few short months ago," said DeMott. "And those kids lined up to hug my wife, to hug Casey, to shake my hand. And I realized we didn’t do anything, Keri did it."
The family said that's something Keri Anne would have loved.
"She was a sociology major, she wanted to make sure everybody was happy, every kid had a smile, everybody understood what life could be," said DeMott. "So we go out and we talk about the decisions we make and how they affect other people."
Now he's done presentations for thousands of Central Florida students to encourage them to think twice-- and to law enforcement officers as well.
"The decisions you make today determine the stories you tell tomorrow," DeMott told the auditorium.
"As a parent, all you can hope is that your kids touched someone, that they did something positive, affected someone in a good way," said DeMott. "I sit here knowing my daughter is changing the world. The end game is no more bad decisions."
The Keri Anne DeMott Foundation is holding its second annual Dinner Banquet, their largest fundraiser of the year, Jan. 6, hosted by News 6’s Trooper Steve Montiero. They’ll be honoring law enforcement and those in the community who work to get results. To buy tickets, click here.
Copyright 2017 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.