CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. — A Missouri family is seeking justice after their sister was killed in a boat crash caused by a drunk boater at the Lake of the Ozarks. The crash killed 42-year-old Marie Steinkuehler, and seriously hurt Steinkuehler’s then 13-year-old and 42-year-old husband.
“Marie was a fantastic person,” sister Cherie Tueth said. “She contributed to the lake economy. She contributed, you know, just she was a great person. This is just a complete lack of justice for her. She didn’t deserve this.”
Tueth said Steinkuehler was in charge of running the family fishing tournament business with brother Charlie Terrell. Their family would often hold tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks, and now said it’s bittersweet to go back there.
“When you have only two people running a business and each have a role and then all of a sudden one of them gone, you don’t even know where to start to pick up the pieces and do everything,” Tueth said.
This week, the boater John Dallas Bennett was sentenced to probation after accepting a deal from prosecutors.
“They contact[ed] us and [said] they’re dropping all five felony charges against this guy because there’s no criminal negligence on his part,” brother Charlie Terrell said.
Camden County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steven Kretzer said the state needed to prove “criminal negligence” to get a felony conviction in this case. He said the evidence did not support that.
“That’s not criminal negligence to get behind the wheel of a 40-foot Sea Ray and run somebody over?” Tueth said.
Kretzer said even though Bennett was intoxicated, he did not drive the boat improperly. Both vessels were going straight and did not see one another until it was too late.
“My dad’s had a heart attack because of this with all the stress,” Tueth said. “My mom suffers from PTSD. I mean, you can imagine, you know, being woke up at 4:00 in the morning, knock on the door, and there’s Water Patrol saying that your daughter’s gone. It’s a grief and a trauma that they will never get over.”
On top of the two-year probation, Bennett is required to pay a $1,000 fine.
“It’s just a complete failure for somebody to be able to be twice the legal limit out on the lake and run over a boat all the way over the boat and nearly killed three people and walk away,” Terrell said.
Terrell and Tueth said they will look into how they could take the case to a higher court not only to seek justice for Steinkuehler, but the rest of their family.
“What the prosecutors just did was that was an extremely dangerous precedent from here on out,” Terrell said. “When someone gets drunk again and jumps in their boat and killed somebody on the lake, all they have to do is go back to this and say, I never intended to kill anybody. I want the same sentence.”