Hours of research have turned Phil and Sherri Slack's dining room into a do-it-yourself law office.
The legal system had been good to the self-professed average American family. That was until March 30 of last year.
It was a Wednesday afternoon when the Slack's then 22-year-old son Grant, finished his shift at Pratt Industries in Bridgman. During his first ten months as a welder there, he'd made friends with a man named Daniel Fleck.
For reasons still unknown, the two decided to kick back and enjoy a few beers late that night.
Around the same time, then 20-year-old Melanie Knapp, a Chikaming Township native, dropped-off her sister at a home along Minnich Road, following a birthday party for their dad. It was a party where family members admit the liquor had also flowed free.
In a case of ill-fate, both parties were on-course to converge. Grant was headed east on Sawyer Road, with Dan in the passenger seat. Meantime, Melanie traveled northbound toward Sawyer along Minnich Road. Despite Grant's headlights in sight, Melanie turned left in front of Grant. The impact was devastating.
Just five minutes after, the initial 911 call was made. Sgt. George Knoll with the Chikaming Township Police Department witnessed the carnage firsthand. "This is a real bad one, Chris," Knoll could be heard saying to another officer.
Grant's Volkswagen GTI was resting off the roadway, ripped to shreds and crushed by a tree. Dan was killed on impact. Some 50 feet away, Melanie was slumped beside her Dodge Stratus, crippled by a broken neck and feet.
Paramedics transported Melanie to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, while Med-Flight air-lifted Grant to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. He wasn't originally expected to survive.
"When I went down and opened the door, it was a police officer,” Grant’s parents recalled. "He said that Grant had been to an accident."
As the Slacks prepared to say goodbye, Sgt. Knoll and his team sought out to find a cause. All fingers pointed toward Melanie.
"I thought she looked glassy-eyed, and the family had just come from dinner. We'll do blood work, but we'll need to seek a warrant for that. That would be a felony, so we'll work for that," Knoll can be heard saying on a dash cam recording obtained by NewsCenter 16.
Despite that promise to obtain a warrant, court documents state Knoll never had a blood draw performed on Melanie. Consequently, the 2008 River Valley High School graduate was never charged with a crime.
Blood tests were performed on Grant and Dan though; the two failed. Grant's now paying the price, serving a 15-year sentence at the Newberry Correctional Facility located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
"No, I don't think he [Grant] should be exempt,” Grant’s parents said. “I think he should be punished, but I think they punished him harshly and arguably for two people. When one gets off and there's so much wrong, there's no way you can fight that."
The Slack's say despite a platter of probable cause, they'll never know if Melanie Knapp was intoxicated that night. They say that is an injustice to everyone involved.
On Thursday, NewsCenter 16 will take this story one step further as we explain why some allege Sgt. Knoll of perjury. We'll also introduce you to legislation currently being drafted in hopes a situation like this will never unfold again. That part of this story can be seen Thursday during NewsCenter 16 at 5:30 p.m.