DUI offender speaks of his infinite ‘life sentence’

By Allie Amendolia
Correspondent

As a college student, Mark Sterner was arrested and charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter: He killed three of his fraternity brothers — and best friends — while driving drunk during spring break of his senior year of college.

At a lecture sponsored by the Inter-Greek Council on March 15 in the Kendall Main Stage Theatre, Sterner warned College students to keep his story in mind.

“Old people die,” he said during his presentation. “You don’t die when you’re 21. We were having fun. It’s just not supposed to happen — but it did.”

Sterner described the events of his life-changing spring break experience to a crowd filled mostly with members of the College’s Greek community. His goal was not to preach to the audience, he said.

“I’m not gonna waste your time,” Sterner promised. “I’m not gonna talk down to you … I’m not gonna take up more than 50 minutes of your time.”

Sterner stayed true to all three of his promises as he described his last night in Sanibel, Fla., where he and four of his brothers from Tau Kappa Epsilon had spent the past six nights at a family-owned condominium.

“After all, it was spring break,” Sterner said. “We were gonna show Sanibel a night it wouldn’t soon forget.”

The audience sat silently in awe after Sterner presented video footage of his last night of spring break, which ends when they stopped filming about 15 minutes before the crash occurred.

“It was a really touching presentation,” said sophomore sociology major Stephanie Holcomb after the lecture. “The room was so quiet, but it didn’t feel awkward at all. You could tell how much everyone just needed to process what they just saw.”

Although Sterner’s presentation was scheduled to occur last year and was cancelled due to inclement weather, the Inner-Greek Council still felt strongly that his voice would speak to Greeks and non-Greeks alike.

“People indulge in (drinking and driving) and they fail to realize the consequences of their behaviors,” said senior psychology major Shaione Simmons, president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and vice president of programming for the Inter-Greek Council. “At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, do I want to be living tomorrow or lying on the table while my parents identify my body on a television screen? And this applies not only to Greek members but also non-Greeks as well.”

Sterner forced his audience to consider what life would be like to be the “least drunk” one night, drive at nearly 100 mph off the road, kill three of their best friends and spend three years in a high-security Florida prison.

“Instead of being the first person in my family to graduate college, I was the first person in my family to go to prison,” Sterner said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my friends … It’s my life sentence. It doesn’t change, and it doesn’t go away.”

To end the evening, Sterner left the audience with a statement: More passengers die in DUI crashes than drivers. And again, the room fell silent.

“Life’s all about choices,” he said. “What kind of choices are you gonna make?”