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Valley mother devastated twice by distracted and drunk drivers

Posted at 6:56 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 22:59:39-04

Over the long Memorial Day weekend, AAA estimates 34 million Americans will hit the roads, which is 60% higher than the year before.

All of that driving will lead to some crashes, but one Valley mother hopes her tragic story will prevent collisions and lead some Arizonans to put down their phones or call a rideshare.

"He’s a great kid, he's funny, witty, smart," said Michelle Sommer.

Sommer still has a hard time talking about her son in the past tense.

"He was six years in the Army and was deployed to Kuwait," said Sommer. "He was a volunteer hotshot firefighter."

Clayton Trovillion excelled at whatever he put his mind to.

"He graduated high school early, started three businesses, and just graduated with his Masters in May 2019," said the proud mother. "And he was studying to take his LSAT."

On August 24, 2019, the 25-year-old veteran was riding his motorcycle to Goodyear to have dinner with his Mom.

"And he didn’t show up at the restaurant that we planned to meet at," said Sommer. "And his roommate said he had left a while ago."

Sommer had a horrible gut feeling, especially when she saw police lights driving towards Clayton's house and got a call back from the roommate.

"He said police were just here and Clayton has been in an accident, and he is at the hospital. But he’s alive."

Clayton held on for a week, before doctors told Michelle she had to make "the hardest decision of her life."

"In order to be able to use the organs they need to take him now," she said. "I laid my head on his chest when they took the ventilator tube out, and I listened to his last heartbeat. And I told him, 'Just fly away, buddy. Be free.'"

Michelle would later learn Clayton was hit from behind by a distracted driver.

Amanda Schlief is now charged with negligent homicide. She told troopers she got a call and “looked down for a second."

"The car is really dangerous weapon," said Sommer.

Michelle experienced that herself just six months before her son was killed.

"I was driving home from work and my car was smashed from behind by a drunk driver," she said.

Police say the suspect in that case, Zackery Kellog, ran away from the scene, before returning to the crash.

"He walked up to the police officer, put his hands behind his back, and the police officer asked him what he was doing and he said, 'I’m still drunk.'"

"I see it in my line of business all the time, but never have I seen it where it impacted someone twice and in such short order," said Anthony Ramirez, Sommer's attorney.

Michelle suffered a traumatic brain injury from that crash, and has since turned her tragedies into advocacy for more awareness and accountability.

"Crimes like these are 100% preventable," said Ramirez.

"There’s no phone call and there’s no text that is so important that somebody has to be killed over it," said Sommer.

On January 1, the state finally began enforcing its 'Hands Free' driving law.

Through April 15, DPS has issued nearly 3,840 citations and 3,062 warnings.

Phoenix police has written 832 tickets for distracted driving.

"It’s not a money grab. If you were doing something wrong and I catch you doing it, then you deserve to be penalized," said Sommer.

She says the couple hundred-dollar fine is nothing compared to the weight she has to carry.

"It’s like you have your heart ripped out of your chest every day," said Sommer. "I don’t want any other family to have to go through what I know we are going through."

To learn more about the hands-free driving law: