Stephanie and Doug Stolzenberger hold a photo of their daughter Cassandra
Stephanie Stolzenberger got this tattoo to honor her daughter Cassandra
The family put Cassandra's 'tattoo' on her gravestone
Kerry Jay Wagner's mug photo
HILLSBORO, OR (KPTV) -
A former Hillsboro man pleaded not guilty Friday to criminally negligent homicide, more than 8 months after prosecutors say he caused a major car crash killing a Hillsboro woman and injuring several others.
Kerry Jay Wagner, 46, was recently arrested in California.
It was the news that the Stolzenberger family has been waiting for. Their 20-year-old daughter Cassandra Stolzenberger died in a car her friend was driving on TV Highway in Aloha last September.
“(The prosecutor) told me, and I actually fell to the ground because he told me they were going to prosecute him and get charges going,” Stephanie Stolzenberger said Saturday.
The family says time has not healed the wounds of the loss. They’ve taken down pictures of Cassandra in their house and rearranged furniture, hoping to ease the sting.
“I’m not going to get grandkids, and I’m not going to get to see her get married, and I’m not going to get to see her get old, because he took that from me,” Stolzenberger said.“It’s not easier. I miss her everyday. Sometimes I even text her on my phone, and I know she’s not going to answer, but I just text her something.”
The family and several other victims of the crash went to Wagner’s first court appearance Friday. Stolzenberger said she almost didn’t go because she didn’t think she could emotionally handle it. The alternative of sitting at home was worse.
“I had to (go)” Stolzenberger said. "I had to do this for her. This is the last time I get to fight for her. I want him to be locked in that cell and never come out, and that’s still not enough.”
Investigators believe Wagner had health problems that were not properly addressed when the accident occurred, and those may have spurred the crash.
Cassandra’s family said they believe those problems could have been prevented.
“I want him (Wagner) to admit he’s guilty, that’s all I want to hear,” Cassandra’s father Doug Stolzenberger said.
The husband and wife were emotional as they talked about their daughter — tears flowing freely when they described a young woman who was beautiful, adventurous, kind and always put family and friends first.
“She helped anybody and she did what anybody asked of her,” Stephanie Stolzenberger said, adding that her daughter loved animals too and was planning on attending vet school in the fall.
Stolzenberger said she often recalls one of the last conversations she had with her daughter: a text message exchange where Cassandra told her mother about special tattoos she wanted the pair to get.
“She said, 'I want to do a big sunflower,’ -- sunflowers are her favorite — 'and I want yours to say, 'my only sunshine,' and hers would say, 'you’re my sunshine.’”
Stolzenberger explained the words represented the song she used to sing to Cassandra as as a baby, a song that Cassandra’s grandmother started singing to her while she was still in Stolzenberger’s womb.
Stolzenberger got the tattoo shortly after Cassandra died, and her daughter has it too — etched on the headstone of her grave.
“I miss her a lot and I love her,” Stolzenberger said.
Wagner next appears in court June 6.
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