Even in death, teacher inspires change

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One look at Mark Gobble’s life and you would have never known he was living with a handicap.

He was a father, a teacher, business owner, and a Ph.D. candidate who managed to find the time and climb Mount Everest between it all. His deafness was never a deterrent.

“He was only on this earth a short time but he accomplished so much while he was here,” said his widow Leslie Hussey, through a sign language interpreter. “I know in my heart he would have accomplished so much more.”

Instead, Hussey can only wonder what those accomplishments may have been. One day before his 38th birthday, Gobble was killed in a hit-and-run accident while he was out on a morning jog.

“Mark was just helpless laying there,” said Hussey. “They didn’t stop. It shows their neglect and a lack of value for human life.”

Police say Roman Turullos-Gonzalez kept going after he hit Gobble, then crashed his truck a few blocks away before fleeing on foot. If drugs or alcohol were involved, it will never be known because he left the scene.

Even though he would later turn himself in, police could only charge Turullos-Gonzalez with failure to stop and render aid, a 3rd degree felony. He pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at a June 9 hearing where a judge could send him to prison for 2-10 years.

But even in death, Gobble continued to add to his list of accomplishments.

“We felt like we could make Mark’s death mean something,” said Hussey. “It was tragic that we lost him but the law was changed because we do not want the same thing to happen.”

Gobble’s death and the death of Courtney Griffin — who was also killed in a hit-and-run — helped lead the charge for change at the capitol. Failure to stop and render aid cases involving serious injury or death are now charged as 2nd degree felonies, equal to intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault. The law went into effect Sept. 1, 2013.

The punishment range is now 2-20 years, essentially eliminating any incentive for a driver to leave the scene.

Even though the new law does not apply to Turullos-Gonzalez, Hussey hopes the judge considers the changes when deciding a sentence.

“We are hoping for a serious consequence for this defendant,” she said.

And even if the law and consequences are not enough to stop drivers from leaving the scene, Hussey hopes they will stop for people like her husband.

“Do your human duty and be there for the other person who cannot help themselves.”

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