A Papillion man accused of causing a crash that killed an off-duty Ashland police officer last August made his first court appearance Wednesday, one week before Shawn Stryker turns 24.
The family said it was just the first step in what will be the long process of healing. "It's really tough, knowing that I can't call him,” Roxane Gelecki said. "Knowing that he is not coming home, it's really tough."
Often times, grief is manifested in different ways. Wednesday morning, at the Sarpy County Courthouse, grief gave way to heartbreak for Gelecki. She and Ashland Police Officer Dan Ottis had been together 10 years. Earlier this year, Ottis made the ultimate commitment of love, asking for his sweetheart’s hand in marriage. "We really hadn't set a date yet,” Gelelcki said.
Sadly, the two would never see the wedding day. Investigators say Stryker is responsible for Ottis' death. On August 7th, Ottis was on his way to work, riding his motorcycle. He was killed in a crash near Highway 6 and I-80. Investigators believe Stryker was using his cell phone at the time of the crash, so distracted, the Nebraska State Patrol said Stryker never hit his brakes.
"Things, they have to change, they have to change things so that this doesn't happen and families don't have to go through this,” Gelecki said.
Gelecki said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Ashland community during Ottis' funeral. Slowly, her heartbreak turned to determination. "I just hope the right thing is done and justice is served."
Stryker will be back in court November 19th. He faces 1-20 years in prison if convicted of motor vehicle homicide.