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A VERY PERSONAL CRUSADE
FATHER OF VICTIM OF THE CRASH SPREADS THE WORD
ABOUT COMPANIES THAT USE TRAVELING SALES CREWS
OF YOUNG PEOPLE.
Wisconsin State Journal; Madison, Wis.; Mar 25, 2001;
Anita Clark
Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)
Published on March 25, 2001
2001 - Madison Newspapers, Inc.

Abstract:

* [Jeremy Holmes] and crew leader Choan Lane, 32, were convicted of crimes and sent to prison, Holmes for seven years and Lane for two years, plus 19 months in jail. They remain behind bars, Holmes at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and Lane at the minimum security unit of Fox Lake Correctional Institution.

Spring brings crew recruiters north to Wisconsin, said Bill Oemichen, Wisconsin consumer protection administrator, and this time investigators in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and Eau Claire are poised to respond quickly. If they can find the crew, they can check permits, look for minors, and review the sales pitches.

State Journal photo/John Maniaci It was the most devasting moment of his life whe [Phil Ellenbecker] learned that his daughter, Malinda, had died in a van crash with six other young people on a traveling magazine sales crew. He honors [Malinda Turvey]'s memory with a shrine in his living room. Photos of Malinda Turvey, Peter Christman, Joesph Wild, Marshall Roberts, Amber Lettman, Corey Hanson, Crystal McDaniel, Nicole McDougal, Monica Forgues, Craig Fechter and Shawn Kelly-Weir.

Full Text:

Copyright Wisconsin State Journal Mar 25, 2001


Phil Ellenbecker's life changed forever two years ago today. He wants to prevent the same thing from happening to other parents.

His only daughter, 18-year-old Malinda Turvey, a spirited girl saving money for cosmetology school, was among seven young people killed in a horrific van crash near Janesville on March 25, 1999. Five others were seriously injured, including a Madison girl who was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

They were members of a traveling crew that sold magazine subscriptions door to door.

"What we're trying to do is make everyone aware of these people, the companies," Ellenbecker, 52, said. "It's a national tragedy."

With other families, he's doing his best to publicize the dangers of fast-moving sales crews that lure young people with vivid promises of travel, adventure and high pay. In fact, the families say, teens find grueling conditions, exploitation, danger - and death.

Nine more people associated with itinerant crews have died since the Janesville crash, according to Earlene Williams, executive irector of Parent Watch, a nonprofit clearinghouse for information about abuse of young people in the industry. Some were killed in crashes similar to the van accident, a high-speed disaster at 12:30 a.m. caused when driver Jeremy Holmes, 20, tried to switch seats. In two cases, crew members have been accused of killing others.

Still fighting grief and rage at losing his daughter, Ellenbecker is frustrated at the slow progress in the fight to prevent more tragedies.
Since March 1999:

* Holmes and crew leader Choan Lane, 32, were convicted of crimes and sent to prison, Holmes for seven years and Lane for two years, plus 19 months in jail. They remain behind bars, Holmes at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and Lane at the minimum security unit of Fox Lake Correctional Institution.

* Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., has reintroduced his bill, now called S. 96, that would ban children under 18 from traveling crews, apply minimum wage and overtime laws to crews, and require supervisors to be licensed. Last week he enlisted the support of Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the committee that will handle it. Wisconsin's other senator, Democrat Russ Feingold, is a co- sponsor.

* Civil lawsuits by the Janesville crash victims and families have been consolidated into one complex case involving dozens of lawyers in Dane County Circuit Court. Rulings are expected this summer on dismissal motions; if the case survives those rulings it could go to a jury in late November on issues of liability and insurance coverage.

* A civil case filed by the Department of Justice is pending, also in

Dane County, against Lane, Subscriptions Plus and its president, Karleen Hillery. The state won a large default judgment when YES, an affiliate of Subscriptions Plus, failed to answer, but has received no money. YES has been enjoined from operating in Wisconsin.

* The state Division of Criminal Investigation will host a training session this week in Mequon offering tips to local police on how to respond when sales crews hit their towns.

Spring brings crew recruiters north to Wisconsin, said Bill Oemichen, Wisconsin consumer protection administrator, and this time investigators in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and Eau Claire are poised to respond quickly. If they can find the crew, they can check permits, look for minors, and review the sales pitches.

Their mission is twofold: to protect vulnerable crew members from predatory crew members and to protect the public from fraudulent sales. Door-to-door sales transactions draw several hundred Wisconsin consumer complaints each year, Oemichen said.

"We tell consumers if you can't establish that this is your neighbor Suzy from down the block, you probably shouldn't buy," he said.

Williams advises consumers to offer the Parent Watch number to young doorstep sellers, or ask if they want their parents to be called. But don't invite a stranger inside, and don't buy their product.

Education efforts try to teach young people, parents and grandparents about the potential pitfalls of sales jobs, Oemichen said.

"One of the things we're finding out now: It's amazing how many people have forgotten about the Janesville accident, or didn't hear about it," Oemichen said.

He notes that being part of a traveling sales crew is not illegal, and some companies his department checks out seem to be OK. But he warns families to watch for misrepresentations and recruitment of under-age workers.

"Disreputable crews want to get you away from home as quickly as possible, and as far away as possible," Oemichen said.

That's what happened to Malinda Turvey. She read a newspaper ad, met Holmes somewhere and returned home full of excitement about her new job and pay of $500 a week. She went on a shopping spree.

She said she'd be back to say goodbye to her little brother, Dustin, who was 8 then.

That was March 23, 1999.

"That was the last time I saw her," Ellenbecker said. "I know Malinda. She would have called me. She hadn't taken her things."

He spent the next day on the Internet and on the telephone, trying to find out about the sales crew. He didn't like what he learned, but how would he find his daughter?

Ellenbecker was at work the morning of March 25, 1999, at Amtelco in McFarland when his boss knocked on his door. The coroner was waiting in the conference room.

"They had to take me home. I couldn't even walk," Ellenbecker said. Malinda's aunt had to identify the body. Other crew members apparently divided up possessions of the dead; her father received only a blood-soaked $20 bill from her pocket.

In July 1980, Ellenbecker named his baby girl Malinda, for a Greek goddess, and Lillian, for his grandmother. Now she lies in a Verona cemetery, where her father and little brother visit her.

"Until this happened, I didn't know about these crews," Ellenbecker said. "What we're trying to do is make it so this doesn't happen to other people, to other families and parents."

[Illustration] Caption: State Journal photo/John Maniaci It was the most devasting moment of his life whe Phil Ellenbecker learned that his daughter, Malinda, has died in a van crash with six other young people on a traveling magazine sales crew. He honors Malinda's memory with a shrine in his living room. Photos of Malinda Turvey, Peter Christman, Joesph Wild, Marshall Roberts, Amber Lettman, Corey Hanson, Crystal McDaniel, Nicole McDougal, Monica Forgues, Craig Fechter and Shawn Kelly-Weir.

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Wisconsin State Journal

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Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.





State Journal photo/John Maniaci





Malinda Lillian Turvey
Born: July 6, 1980, Forever Young: March 25, 1999

Take Me To The Janesville Van Crash

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