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Milwaukee stolen car crash victims search for closure

Posted at 6:48 AM, Mar 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-05 09:36:11-05

MILWAUKEE -- In Milwaukee's stolen car epidemic, we often do not see what the victims have gone through.

The two who shared their stories with TODAY'S TMJ4 were hit by a stolen car, that was in the middle of a high-speed chase.

They each applied through a state-run program called the Crime Victim Compensation Program to help pay for their mounting bills after the crash. They say they are in disbelief over the responses they received.

One of the five victims in this May 2016 crash is an employee with TODAY'S TMJ4, editor Gideon Verdin-Williams. He showed us the stitches in his head days after it happened, but was still more worried about his passengers at the time.

"I want my friends to be ok I want them to come through this," said Verdin-Williams back in 2016.

Nearly two years later, his insurance is starting to pay out, up to $100,000 total. Jessica Keppert, a back seat passenger in the crash says her medical bills and lost wages cost more than that alone.

"It was serious. I didn't have a pulse I had to be resuscitated by the paramedics, I had three broken vertebrae in my back," explained Keppert.

She and Verdin-Williams both applied to get help paying their losses through the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program. The program pays for a violent crime victim's unreimbursed expenses that result from a crime.

"For four months, I didn't have an income," Keppert claims.

Keppert questions why she was told in a letter from the Department of Justice to re-apply after all other insurance was exhausted, "You know what I mean, two years later?" said Keppert.

Verdin-Williams was denied altogether, because he is not listed as a victim in the criminal complaint under the charge of 'great bodily harm.' This is the only charge against the suspect that qualifies for compensation under the program.

His former lawyer Jon Safran told us, "I certainly attempted to have the district attorney amend the criminal complaint so as to have him also named as a victim."

We reached out to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office for answers. The director of victim witness services called us back Friday to explain they did not add Verdin-Williams as a victim, because they believe his injuries did not meet the proper standards of the charge 'great bodily harm.' It did however, in Keppert's case.

Verdin-Williams asked, "How bad to you have to be injured in order to be compensated as a victim?"

Safran adds, "Over the years I have seen they [Crime Victim Compensation Program] have not been fully funded they have run out of money at times."

A spokesperson with the Department of Justice replied, "In the past, the program ran out of money, but no victim's payment was ever delayed as a result."

The DOJ also shared in the last three yeas, they have given out more than $12 million through this program.

We shared with Keppert's lawyer the DOJ stated she can re-apply. All of her medical bills have just been caught up. We will check in with her to decide what she plans to do next.

If you are wondering what happened to the teenage suspect in this case, she was charged as an adult and is serving prison time.