No solace for Napa family's loss: DUI crash on Browns Valley Road claimed life of brother, son, friend
The Super Bowl party was supposed to be a fun gathering, a chance for Michael Patland's family and friends to meet up at his Browns Valley home, celebrate the game, and even toss around a football.
"I always loved that tradition and wanted to bring all my friends together," for the event, Michael said.
It was Feb. 2, 2020, and the guests included Michael's younger brother, Kevin Patland.
Just 23 years old, Kevin was a wine business student at Sonoma State.
"He looked so happy," at the party, Michael recalled.
This is the memory that Michael, now 28, wants to hang onto. Because that was the last time he talked to Kevin.
Just after 7 p.m. that evening, driving his Chevrolet Camaro, Kevin left the party at Michael's house.
The two brothers hugged goodbye. "I said, 'See you soon,' and he was off," recalled Michael.
Just minutes later, Kevin was turning left from Woodlawn Drive toward the eastbound lane of Browns Valley Road as an Infiniti G37s driven by Napan Gary Lindstrom was speeding west on Browns Valley Road.
In a moment that would change both families' lives forever, Lindstrom's car collided violently with Kevin's.
Lindstrom was going over 85 mph, investigators determined. A screening test showed his blood alcohol content to be .14%.
Within minutes of the crash, Michael rushed to the corner, only to find a horrific scene.
"Glass was strewn all over the pavement," he recalled. "Then I saw the blood. There was blood everywhere."
Lindstrom, then age 31, had minor injuries, according to the collision report. A passenger in Lindstrom's car, Iris Dora Villalobos, suffered a broken wrist and other significant injuries.
Kevin was rushed by ambulance to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
It's like a nightmare that you can't wake up from, Michael wrote in a victim impact statement.
"I feel numb, and I still do," he said.
The weeks and months after the accident were no different.
There was so much to process during an already unbearable time. A funeral. Designing a headstone and what would be written on it.
In the past, his parents took to the lead on such family matters, but not in this case.
"As strong as my parents are, it was one of those times I realized I had to step up and try and take care of them," said Michael during an interview in early September. "It's a role reversal that I wouldn't wish on any son."
In the aftermath of the crash, there were legal issues to contend with. Lindstrom was arrested. His charges included gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence causing injury.
The family chose to participate in the legal process, he said. That includes his parents Henry and Olga Patland, and Felix, Kevin's fraternal twin.
It wasn't easy.
"It's very understandable why someone would leave this in the hands of the justice system and walk away and focus on healing and moving on," Michael said.
However, "That was something that was never an option for us. We owed it to Kevin. If there was anything we could do to get justice for him, we had to do it."
The Patland family sued Lindstrom for wrongful death and negligence. That case was settled.
Villalobos sued Michael Patland's estate and his parents, for negligence. She claimed that Kevin had been drinking. However, Michael said he believes that Kevin had only one beer, "at the beginning" of the party.
Villalobos also sued Lindstrom for negligence.
In July, Lindstrom plead "no contest" to charges including gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence causing injury.
Come Oct. 15, 20 months after his brother's death, Michael and his family face yet another hurdle in their grieving process. On that date Lindstrom will be sentenced in Napa Superior Court to anything from probation to more than 10 years in prison and as much as $20,000 in fines.
An attorney for Lindstrom could not be immediately reached to comment on this story.
Patland family members and friends will attend the sentencing, said Michael.
"I would like to see a sentence that accurately reflects the seriousness of his crime and the impact that it had on our family," Michael said. "I would want a sentence that would make someone else think twice before doing what he did."
There is also a chance Lindstrom could be sentenced to probation.
"That would be an absolute travesty," said Michael. "That would make a joke out of our loss."
Michael explained why he was going public about such a traumatic loss.
He's speaking out to make people think twice about drinking and driving, said Michael. "People need to understand how this seemingly small series of decisions can rip a family apart. They need to know before they causally go out and have a few drinks and then a few more and then get into a car that they're not just putting themselves at risk but the people around them."
"I don't want Kevin's story to get buried as a statistic," said Michael. "Those numbers are big enough. I want people to understand what happened."
When asked if he thinks Lindstrom's sentencing would bring him any sense of closure, Michael demurred.
"I honestly don't know," he said.
"If it would, then I would have expected to feel something in that direction when he agreed to the plea. Frankly I don't know what closure would feel like. I don't want to close the book on my brother."
At the time of his death, Kevin was at a turning point in his life, said Michael. "And that's really one of the things that makes this even harder for me is that he was on the precipice of discovering of what kind of man he was going to be. He was growing up. I saw he was becoming more ambitious. He was going above and beyond with his certificate program. He was actively trying to learn and better himself."
In fact, Kevin was about to finish his degree at Sonoma State. After he passed away, the school awarded him a posthumous diploma.
"We need to remember him and try and do right by him," Michael said. "He'll always be a part of this family."
You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or firstname.lastname@example.org