Murder trial scheduled to start Nov. 30 in Jason Rivenburg’s death

| 11/25/2009

While Hope Rivenburg says she tries to put on a brave face every day for her three young children, she said she doesn’t know what to expect as she and her family prepare for their upcoming journey to Calhoun County, SC.

There, for the first time, Hope said she will face the alleged shooter of her husband, Jason Rivenburg, of Fultonham, NY. He was fatally shot on March 5 while parked in his rig at an abandoned gas station near St. Matthews, SC, for the $7 he had on him. Jason was scheduled to deliver a load of milk at 7 a.m. the following morning at the Food Lion distribution center in Elloree, SC, which doesn’t allow trucks on-site until an hour before their appointment time.

The trial is scheduled to start on Monday, Nov. 30, against Willie Pelzer, 22, who has been charged with murder. Two others, Jim Haywood, 21, and Willie Reed, 21, have each been charged with being an accessory after the fact of the murder.

“I have my good days and my bad days, but everyone has been so supportive,” she told Land Line on Friday, Nov. 20. “I am not really sure what to expect when I get there, but I am fortunate to have several family members going along to support me.”

She said her parents, Jason’s mom, his sister and aunt will be making the trip from New York to South Carolina next week. Several family members are also traveling with Hope and her family to help watch her three kids during the trial. Her son, Josh, is now 3, while twins Hezekiah and Logan will be 9 months old in mid-December. They were born just two weeks after Jason was killed.

Hope said an organization called “Concerned Citizens of Calhoun County” has offered her family “a house to stay in and for her immediate family to stay with people in that organization during the trial.” She said this will relieve a big financial burden from her family because she isn’t sure how long the trial will last.

“They had contacted the solicitor’s office in Calhoun County, who called me and asked me about it. Since then, I have been talking to one of the ladies in the organization,” Hope said. 

Hope admits her plate is full just taking care of her kids right now, but she has also become an advocate for safe parking for truckers as well. Since Jason’s death, she has been working to bring awareness to two bills in the House and Senate, both titled “Jason’s Law,” for more safe parking for truckers nationwide.

She is calling on truckers and their families to keep this issue in the forefront so that what happened to Jason won’t “have to happen to another trucker’s family.”

Rep. Paul Tonko, D-NY, introduced HR2156 in the House in April. His bill has 29 co-sponsors, and she heard from Tonko’s office recently that another co-sponsor has signed on as well. 

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, has also introduced S791. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill.

If your lawmakers aren’t listed as a co-sponsor to either bill, Hope is encouraging truckers and their families to e-mail and call them to make them aware of the importance of these bills.

“My biggest fear is that everybody will forget about this, and Jason’s death will have been for nothing. We can’t let that happen until these bills are passed,” she said.

“We need everybody’s help. This is an issue where truckers can be heard and get the respect they deserve for the sacrifices they make every day. Too many people are dying for nothing. Jason died over $7, but in my opinion, there isn’t a load that’s worth losing another trucker’s life.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer