top of page



Susie Spoolstra-Kelley

My name is Susie Spoolstra-Kelley, and Zachary is my son.  

The day before the accident was a perfect day.  We had celebrated my daughter graduating from NNU with honors, and it was a day for reconciliation for Zach and his sister Michaela, who had been struggling to get along for about a year and a half. 


I was only 2 weeks out from emergency surgery and was exhausted, but nevertheless, we finished all of the celebrations and the food, hugs, and the traditional graduation pictures, and the kids went their separate ways for the day. 


I went and saw my horse and then stopped on the way home at Zach’s apartment to get something from him.  When he came out of his apartment, I remember looking at him and thinking that he looked so beautiful.  He was holding his two precious dogs, and he said, "I’m just going to hang out with some friends tonight.  I hugged my big, beautiful boy and kissed his cheek, and he said to me” I love you, momma. I’m going to be okay”

"I will NEVER be the same.  My kids will NEVER be the same!"

I said, “Please be careful, baby.  I Love you!” That was the last time I was able to tell my precious son that I love him, hug him, and kiss his beautiful face.  I went on with the day not really knowing what was to come.


We normally would have gone to church the next morning, but I was so tired from my surgery and my daughter’s graduation party,  I told my husband that instead of going to church tomorrow, I needed to sleep in and just rest.  I went to sleep, hoping I would recover and wake up feeling better. 

I woke up with a start at 6:38 am not knowing why ( I found out later that this was the minute that Zach had died and gone to Heaven)  so I got up and made some coffee and came back to bed to relax.


Around 9:30 AM my doorbell rang.  Normally, the doorbell doesn’t ring unless one of our dogs gets out.   My youngest son, Gabe, answered the door and said,  ”Mom, it's a Police officer”  My heart dropped to the floor.  I didn’t know what to think as I put a shirt on.  Officer Coho came inside and then delivered the worst news a mother could ever hear.  My oldest child had been killed by a drunk driver!

I fell to the floor and then got back up. I paced around the room, feeling nauseous, trying to stop this horrible pain I was feeling but not knowing what to do.  The worst possible thing had just happened to me and my family.

"I sit in my closet crying, missing my son, and wondering what God has for me in this.  I scream inside, Jesus, please help me!  I cannot stand alone, but You can help me to stand."

My husband immediately started calling my other kids.  The military was able to fly my middle son home from boot camp very quickly.  I had floods of people praying for me, bringing me food, and extending love to me.  I had just gone to my dear sweet friend Julie’s son’s funeral 3 months prior, and I couldn’t imagine going through that, and here I was now living my worst nightmare.

I want to address my precious child who is no longer here.  I remember the day when he asked Jesus into his heart to be His Lord and Savior, and I remember him making that public declaration of his faith with Pastor Bob and again as an adult a year ago in July 2017.  I know where my son is and I can look up to God and feel the joy that I know my son is safe and happy and whole.  Zachary is in the presence of Jesus in Heaven right now, he has no pain, no struggling, no more strife, and that is where all of us who call on the name of the Lord can be when we die if we ask Him.   

But even this assurance does not stop the ripping heartache that I feel with the loss of my Zach, my precious child.  I have sleepless nights imagining the horrific accident that took his life, the life of my child.  The daily phone calls I don’t get any more just to say, “Hey Momma what’s up? What are you doing? When can I come and see you?", and at the end of every phone call or text, ”Love you, Momma”. 


I’ve had to spend the last few months planning a funeral for my child, a burial, and a headstone for my boy that I carried for 9 months and raised for 24 years.   Instead of getting texts and phone calls, I receive things like the coroner’s report in the mail.  At first, it was something I thought that I wanted, and yet I can’t seem to open the sealed envelope. There it still sits on my counter, "Are there pictures of Zach inside?" I ask myself.  "Pictures of my broken-to-pieces precious child? Pictures unrecognizable by me, but known only by the one who created him and took him home painlessly?"


I don’t know what to do, and I can't bring myself to open it, so I sit in my closet crying, missing my son, and wondering what God has for me in this.  I scream inside, "JESUS PLEASE HELP ME...I CAN’T STAND...BUT YOU CAN HELP ME TO STAND!"  And He does.


My son was not a perfect child, in fact, he made plenty of mistakes.  When he made adult mistakes that held adult consequences, it ripped my heart out as a mom.  This is what I used to say to my son, "Nothing you could ever do would make me not love you or disown you as my child.  I Love you!  Always, and NO matter what!  Also, Jesus loves you and NEVER gives up on you.  You can turn to Him at ANY moment and he will forgive you and give you the strength you need to make the right and hard choices,  but because He loves you, there will be consequences for your actions.  Please, please son-think about that before you make choices that you will regret." I prayed for him constantly.  Asking that God would teach him a lesson that would help him to make good choices that would help bring restoration to my son's life.

"We have to live every day missing our big teddy bear, Zach, my big beautiful son, and we will never be able to see him get married to his beautiful girlfriend, or see him have a baby someday that he so desperately wanted." 

I LOVED my son Zachary.  I LOVE My Son, Zachary.  No matter what mistakes he made, just like I would hope that Joshawa’s parents Love Him.  Hearing the consequences of this horrific and catastrophic crash that took the life of my son because of the choice that Joshawa made to drive that night, breaks my heart for him.  I DON'T WANT Joshawa's life to be ruined.  I WANT there to be restoration and change in his behavior so that this NEVER happens to ANYONE EVER AGAIN.  

That being said, there are so many questions that I have for Joshawa.  "Did you try to help my son? Was Zach aware of his pain?  Did he ask for me?  What did he say?  Was he all alone in the middle of the road with no one? Did he Suffer?  Did you Hold his hand or pray for him?"  These are questions that I have had since the moment the police officer came to my home and delivered the news that broke my heart and shattered my entire world.   I will NEVER be the kids will never be the same.  But God promises to make something beautiful out of something horrific, and if even one person’s life is changed because of the Loss of my son,  at least I will know there has been some good that can come out of something so hopeless and horrific.

Zach 3.jpg

I don’t want Joshawa’s life to be ruined, but the fact is, we ALL have to live with the consequences of this choice that was made on May 6th, 2018.  The only difference is, my son Zachary now doesn’t have the ability to make any more choices.  My remaining children, Javan, Michaela, and Gabriel, as well as myself,  we ALL have to live every day missing our big teddy bear, Zach.  My big beautiful son and we will never be able to see him get married to his beautiful girlfriend, or see him have a baby he so desperately wanted someday.  He was so much like me, Zach LOVED children and had such a big heart. 


Of all the things that people said to me about Zach after his death, these stand out:  His big, beautiful smile,  his HUGE heart, and his love for his momma.  We never planned on visiting him this Christmas at the cemetery, and this has changed us forever.  We took new family pictures this Christmas, but in every picture you can tell it wasn't the same without our Zach.  We miss so many things about him, even the things that used to irritate us, we miss.  I still can't believe he is gone, and I will never see him again on this Earth. I know that I will see him when I go to Heaven, but we will never, ever be the same without our Zachary. 

Thank you for listening.  I ask the court to please consider the magnitude of the impact this tragedy has had on our family and those that also loved Zach.  This just didn't affect us, although we are the most broken-hearted, there are so many that love our family and my son.  PLEASE! Consider what has been lost by a decision, a CHOICE to drink and drive.  Although nothing will bring back my son, I want this sentencing to not simply be life-altering for Joshawa Bechtel, but to ultimately be LIFE CHANGING.  

bottom of page