CLIFTON PARK -- The parents of Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, both of whom were killed by an impaired driver in 2012, have taken to the internet in hopes of keeping that driver in prison.
The parents posted a petition to Change.org this week and quickly garnered more than 3,700 signatures by early Tuesday evening in support of their cause: to keep Dennis Drue behind bars.
Drue, now 27, is up for parole for the first time later this year on a 5- to 15-year sentence for causing the deaths of Stewart and Rivers, as well as for injuries suffered by their Shenendehowa classmate Matt Hardy and Shaker High School student Bailey Wind.
Drue admitted he was speeding, driving recklessly and was high on marijuana when he rear-ended a Ford Explorer driven by Stewart on the Northway on Dec. 1, 2012, causing Drue's vehicle to flip over several times. Stewart's vehicle was driving below the speed limit and in the right lane at the time of the collision.
Drue pleaded guilty to all 58 counts against him, most felonies, in exchange for a sentence from the then-Judge Jerry J. Scarano of 5 to 15 years. The deal was made directly with the judge.
The sentence upset some and resulted in a previous online petition by a Clifton Park resident and a letter-writing campaign.
The current petition, started by the parents of Stewart and Rivers is titled "Keep Dennis Drue Behind Bars!"
"Please help us by voicing your objection to his potential early release from the maximum 15-year sentence he was given!" the text, signed by Michael and Regina Stewart and Brian and Debbie Rivers, states, in part.
Drue's parole hearing is in July and, if he is successful in gaining early release, he could be out of prison by the end of November. If denied, his next chance at release would likely be two years later.
The families of the victims will have their own time before the parole board in June. Both families intended to give presentations that include the online petition results.
The petition, so far, has again shown the community's support, Brian Rivers said.
"That's a huge feeling in itself right there," he said.
Rivers said the response also shows dissatisfaction with Drue's sentence.
The families have been in regular contact with the state victim's advocates and will do as much as they can with their time allotted before the board, Michael Stewart said.
"We really are going to do our homework over the next few months, getting as much material as we can," he said.
Drue is housed at the medium-security Collins Correctional Facility in Erie County.
He's been written up once during his incarceration, state records show. That was for smoking, in March 2014. He lost package, commissary and phone privileges for 15 days, as a result.