Imagine walking your children in what is supposed to be a quiet residential neighborhood.

You're pushing your 18-month-old daughter in her stroller. Your 5-year-old son is right there with you as well.

Then all hell barrels around the bend and into your life in the form of a car speeding in a residential zone.

The car jumps the sidewalk and slams into the stroller, ripping both children from your hands.

Kevin Foy doesn't have to imagine what that is like. He lived it last year in the 9600 block of White Oak Avenue in Munster.

And on Monday, he watched in a Lake County criminal courtroom as the conjurer of the nightmare, Nicholas C. Heppner-Lundin, received a slap on the wrist for a degree of recklessness that could have wiped out Foy's world.

It's a sad commentary on a justice system that is all-too-often soft on criminals who put our lives at risk.

The message delivered Monday by Lake County Judge Diane Boswell should be unacceptable to everyone, much less the parents of young children among us.

Thankfully, Foy's precious children survived. Quite horribly, Foy's daughter must now live with the untold effects of a traumatic brain injury and his young son with the hellish nightmares.

And for what?

Heppner-Lundin, 21, admitted to police he was out joyriding with friends when the utterly preventable tragedy occurred Aug. 18, 2018.

Heppner-Lundin had three passengers in his car that day, according to police: two 20-year-old Munster men and an 18-year-old Hammond woman.

The defendant told police he believed he approached a bend in the residential road at between 65 and 70 mph — more than 40 mph above the posted speed limit. Accident investigators estimate he was driving about 51 mph before the crash.

Heppner-Lundin also admitted he knew the vehicle's brakes were not good before the crash, police said.

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And the 18-year-old passenger in his car told police Heppner-Lundin commented about how he wanted to see how the manual transmission was smoother and faster at high speeds because of the vehicle's turbo booster.

The evidence in this case stacks up to the six felony counts of criminal recklessness and three misdemeanor counts of reckless driving with which Heppner-Lundin initially was charged.

But that's not where the story ends.

Prosecutors cut a plea deal with the defendant, allowing him to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of reckless driving. On Monday, the judge saw fit to essentially let Heppner-Lundin off the hook with no real level of punishment.

The one-year jail sentence he could have faced was suspended. So he faces no jail time.

He'll serve that year on probation and must remain enrolled at Purdue University.

So a criminal defendant who put the lives of innocent people, including two children, on the cusp of ultimate peril gets to stay in school as part of his sentence.

The defendant expressed remorse at the Monday sentencing hearing.

He receives no points for that.

As his college classes resume this fall, we all should remember that two young children were nearly denied any chance of ever attending school — or doing anything else in life beyond the ages of 18 months and 5 years, respectively.

And we all must continue to ask when the punishments will begin fitting the crimes.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.