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Wild Night Leads to Tragic Consequences

Kyle Guthrie speaks publicly for the first time about the night that Dennis Ray Ross Jr. died.

Late night on July 19, 2009, five grads drove through South Riding, drinking alcohol and tossing fireworks from the back of a pickup truck.

A bad choice, to say the least. But no one planned for the hell that followed what was supposed to be a night of fun and mayhem.

Kyle Guthrie, 19 at the time, tossed a lit firework which landed in the back of the truck bed. Nineteen year-old Dennis Ray Ross Jr. panicked when he saw it, jumped out of the vehicle and hit his head on the road.

Ross died that night. And the consequences for Guthrie, the only teen out of the five to be charged in Ross' death, will stay with him for far longer than the five days he served in jail.

Guthrie and his mother Jan spoke in public for the first time at a Citizens Advisory Committee meeting about what happened that night in July 2009 and the consequences that followed. Both struggled at times to get through the presentation.

"My name is Kyle Guthrie and I've been charged with involuntary manslaughter with the death of Dennis Ray Ross Jr.," Guthrie began. "Who I would like to add was a friend of mine."

"I'm now a convicted felon."

Perhaps worse than the jail time has been the onset of mental illness and Guthrie's self-inflicted injuries. He got addicted to Xanax after experiencing panic attacks. He said that he's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, depression and chronic anxiety. Then he quickly rattled off a list of ten medications he's been taking on and off. The illnesses began to set in almost exactly a year after the accident, he said.

He took a breath in and said, "I've tried to kill myself. Five times. Twice by knife. Three times by medications."

It was only a month ago that a man rear-ended his new car at a stoplight. Both men got out of the car, furious.

"We were screaming at each other," Guthrie related. "He goes, 'you don't know who I am, don't talk to me like that.' And I said, 'I don't care who you are, you don't know who I am either.' And he paused for a second. Said, 'yeah I do. You're that effing a**hole that killed somebody.'"

Guthrie went home, swallowed 25 sleeping pills and drank eight bottles of Corona.

"I don't know if I was trying to kill myself or not," he said. "Didn't care."

It was a dramatic shift for him, Jan Guthrie said, while reading from prepared remarks.

"I watched Kyle change from an avid, very talented soccer player, who was a very healthy, normal and caring young man who was looking forward to the opportunities he had in front of him, to someone who was -" she began, then choked up on her words for a second, "-in pain, guilt and depression."

Not everything has changed for the worse, though. Guthrie appears committed to making much better choices as a young adult than the ones he made in high school. "We used to go to parties every weekend, Friday, Saturday night, get completely wasted and drive home. We'd have like twelve, fifteen beers."

He wants to help other young people learn to make better choices through his experience. He hopes to warn young people about the dangers of drinking and driving.

That's something the audience encouraged him to do as well. One man who identified himself as Dennis Ross' coach, said that he had been present while Ross received the Last Rites. "You have a great opportunity here," he said. He encouraged Guthrie to place the focus on the core of his message, not on issues like how he was treated by law enforcement.

Captain Purvis Dawson, commander of the echoed the sentiment. "If we had done this right we would have packed the room with teenagers," he said.

Guthrie said that he hopes his story will make an impact on people that age. "I just really hope my story - if I can save a life. You know it's almost hypocrital to say. Because I think about killing myself every single day," he said. "But I know what I have the potential for and I know I'm good for it."

Kim Canada May 20, 2011 at 07:45 PM
I am very touched by this story, as my neighbor, Leslie Jenulson, discussed this powerful story with me, having been at the meeting. I am very proud of this young man for standing up, and having the courage to make an impact on others. I look forward to personally sharing my story with this young man; there has got to be a reason we face these trials. God only knows. Maybe, one day I will have the same courage to make a stand and to share what has "robbed" me of having a "normal" life, as well.....people and circumstances - in just one day - can change everything. We must continue on this journey, finding solace and comfort in our friends and family, and stay positive. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Bob May 21, 2011 at 06:33 PM
The Fairfax County Police at the Sully District Station are trying to get these types of messages out to the community. The past two CAC meetings have been powerful in regards to "opening your eyes" to some of the dangers our kids face. We encourage folks to attend when special presentations are advertised.

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