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VICTIMS' FRIENDS, FAMILIES SEEK TOUGHER LAWS

Wearing T-shirts to lobby for their cause, about two dozen friends and relatives of two South Towns teen-agers killed in a DWI crash last month rallied Monday for tougher sentencing laws against drunken drivers.

Friends and loved ones of Shanda L. Gordon and Charles S. Heilig appeared at the arraignment of Sharlene C. Kline, 26, of Hamburg. She faces charges of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years. Ms. Kline pleaded innocent, her license was revoked, and she was freed without bail.

"Stop the Killing. Change the Law," read the T-shirts worn by the Heilig and Gordon families.

"Our laws have to be changed," said Sandra Gordon, Ms. Gordon's mother. "They are far too lenient. They do not fit the crime."

Some of the relatives of the two Erie Community College classmates expressed shock and disappointment that Ms. Kline, who was on crutches, was freed after the arraignment.

"They're both dead, and she's still walking around," said Edward Heilig, Charles' father. "That just doesn't seem right."

But after talking with Hamburg Town Justice Walter L. Rooth, Heilig said he learned that bail is intended to ensure a defendant's appearance in court, not as punishment.

"After Judge Rooth explained it, I accepted it," Heilig said.

Ms. Kline's next appearance in Town Court is set for Nov. 6, but that could change if she's indicted.

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