Friends, family remember DUI driver's struggles to battle alcoholism

  • Mark Church with his fiancee, Andrea Smith, in December 2012. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

The words were scrawled in black marker on the back of the white Dodge Durango found crashed one week ago today at the bottom of the Covey Road hill: “Pull me over I'm drunk.”

Just moments earlier, Mark Church, 23, had been alive with friends, some he'd known for years. They were out drinking as Friday night spilled into Saturday at the Forestville Club about a mile away.

But the night careened into tragedy when Church drove away in the Durango he'd borrowed from his fiancee, leaving his friends to walk home from the bar. He left against their protests, his friends later told officers.

He never turned at the bottom of the hill, driving straight through a guardrail and slamming into the hillside where Covey Road dead-ends at Trenton Road.

Whether it was a plea or a prank, the message scrawled on the back of the Durango did not help the young man.

Until that night, Church had been slowly winning a battle against alcohol-fueled decisions that brought him repeated arrests over the last several years, said those who knew him.

But one night, one decision, took that away.

Each day, about 88 people die in drunken driving crashes across the United States, according to the most recent figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Sonoma County, at least four people were killed in such crashes last year, according to Press Democrat archives. And although the circumstances in each case are different, they all hinge on a decision to get behind the wheel.

“There truly and honestly was more to Mark than that moment,” said his fiancee Andrea Smith of Santa Rosa.

Church had been more or less sober for months, his family and friends said. He and Smith were recently engaged and Church was a month into a new job, saving up for an apartment and filling a notebook with recipes for a bakery he hoped to open one day.

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