Protesters call for change in state law, charges to be filed in deaths of teens

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Frustration is growing over the lack of criminal charges in the deaths of two teenagers on their way to prom. Friday evening, protesters called for change outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office.

The small group of about 15 people had big demands. Members want charges filed and changes made to state law. The protesters were there to support Lendon Byram and Kalen Hart, who were killed in May when they were hit at an intersection in Arcadia.

The other driver was given a speeding ticket.

“It’s been terrible — a nightmare. I decided that we should protest to get the Indiana law changed,” said Stacy Hoch, who is a friend of Byram’s family.

Documents from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said the prosecutor’s office declined to file criminal charges in the case. The crash documents also said that if the driver had gone the posted speed limit, it’s unlikely the crash would have happened and Byram’s car would have crossed the intersection safely.

Hart’s family met with the prosecutor this week to learn why he didn’t press charges. The family said the prosecutor told them there is no negligent homicide law in Indiana.

Right now, neither negligent homicide nor vehicular homicide are considered a crime in the Hoosier state. News 8 asked former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to explain.

“There’s a lot of controversy about if you’re going 25 miles an hour or 20 miles over the speed limit, is that a reckless act or is that just a negligent act? And negligence is something you can pursue in civil court for damages and receive monetary compensation, but negligence is not something the criminal justice system necessarily punishes,” said Brizzi.

That was something Hoch said she didn’t realize until recently.

“I know that that person is gonna have to live with that for the rest of their lives but I was just really shocked, really surprised that nothing more could be done,” said Hoch.

Among the demonstrators demanding change was Sydney Runyan, who was Byram’s best friend and went to Hamilton Heights with Hart.

“It was a very eerie feeling going back to school after it happened, especially when it was Height’s prom. Everyone was very quiet, and it was like very heartbreaking — no one wanted to say anything,” said Runyan.

News 8 is not naming the other driver involved because they are underage and have not been charged with a crime. We have made several attempts to reach the Hamilton County Prosecutor and have not heard back.

Both Byram’s and Hart’s families have started a petition to change the law, at last check it had more than 1,000 signatures.