RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — After a drunk driver took her husband’s life, a Russellville woman is choosing forgiveness. Monday, 30-year-old Ricky Roberts plead guilty to negligent homicide, unauthorized use of vehicle, and first offense DWI in Pope County Circuit Court.

He is sentenced to 30 years for striking a family vehicle of five while going 90 miles an hour last September. That crash ultimately resulted in 29-year-old Wes Honnell’s death.

According to the Arkansas Highway Safety Office, about 150 people a year die from drunk driving in Arkansas. And in 2020, almost one-third of all traffic deaths in the state involved alcohol.

“Mr. Roberts and my husband were two months apart in age,” Jessica Honnell, Wes’ widow, explained. “Both raised in Arkansas, both just living life, and their paths cross in this most horrific way.”

A car crash on September 13, 2021, changed Jessica Honnell’s family.

“I remember just walking around the scene and saying my husband’s dying. My husband’s dying,” Jessica retold. “It was obvious that he was critically injured. There wasn’t any movement of all in any part of his body.”

Wes Honnell, a loving husband and father, fought in the hospital suffering from a traumatic brain injury and Atlanto-occipital dislocation Jessica described as “internal decapitation.

One day Wes had enough strength to blink when Jessica asked him to, and he held her hand. Jessica let him know their six-year-old, three-year-old, and five-month-old kids were safe. Within weeks he passed away.

“My husband’s life was taken and Mr. Roberts gets to continue his,” Honnell stated.

Monday, Ricky Roberts had his day in court, and plead guilty to drunk driving, stealing a vehicle, and negligent homicide. When Jessica Honnell had a chance to say something to the man responsible for her husband’s death she said. “I love you and I forgive you.”

“I wanted to get that off my chest. I wanted to share with him that he was forgiven,” Jessica said. “If I expect God to extend grace to me, then I need to extend grace to others.”

Her victims’ impact statement she read left both her and Roberts in tears.

During which she said, “Today I can say without any doubt that Wes would be proud of the choice that you made to take responsibility for your actions. He would applaud you and he would want us all to forgive you fully.

Even though the drunk driving accident changed their family on earth, the Honnells ensured it didn’t change their eternal faith.

“He (Wes) really did teach me a lot about just how to forgive and love people and move forward because that’s all we can do,” Jessica concluded.

In 2019 an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred in the United States every 52 Minutes.

You can read Jessica Honnell’s full victims’ impact statement here:

“September 13, 2021 was the worst day of my life. That morning we started the day as a family of 5 building our dream home and loving our life together. At 7:44 a.m., Wes texted me his usual “I love you today. Have a good day at work.” Our 5-month baby girl stayed home with Wes while our 3-year-old and 6-year-old went to school. It was a normal day and we were simply going back to our house after looking at the progress of our new construction. But at 4:30 p.m., our family would never be together on this earth again.  Wes would spend the next few weeks fighting for his life with extensive injuries to his brain and neck.  He fought so hard to say goodbye even though his prognosis was grim.  When he woke up despite all odds, the nurse was reading scriptures to him and told him that his wife and kids were so happy to see him again. He looked confused and she assured him that we were all okay. He started crying.  When I went into the room, he took his right side that was somewhat functioning and did everything he could to get to me and hold my hand.  He always wanted to show me how loved I am. He loved me from the first day we met until he went to Heaven. I was his world and he was mine. We built a beautiful life together over a decade and shared a love that most never experience.

Wes was a man of the highest character. He was greatly respected by his colleagues at work.  He worked extremely hard to achieve his goals of being a professional engineer and a senior reactor operator at Arkansas Nuclear One.

But more than an amazing guitarist, walking encyclopedia, and the funniest person I’ve ever known, he was the protector, provider, and leader of our family. The essence of his being was to protect us from anything that life could bring that would harm us. Even though he didn’t choose it, I know he would sacrifice himself for the other 4 of us every single time. I know that he loved us more than his own life. When he went to Heaven, he went knowing that we were safe. In the days that have passed, we have learned to carry his memory the best that we can. Wesley’s last earthly gift was the gift of life to others. He donated his organs and in September, a year after our accident, a man will walk his daughter down the aisle with Wesley’s heart beating in his chest. I will never stop boasting of Wesley’s character. He was a man of faith and his faith will impact generations to come. Wesley’s earthly body may have died, but his soul is very much alive and his impact on our children will never die.  His life was exemplary and that kind of influence doesn’t fade.  

Today I can say without any doubt that Wes would be proud of the choice that you made to take responsibility for your actions. He would applaud you and he would want us all to forgive you fully. So, Mr. Roberts, I want you to know that it is my greatest desire for you to come to know Christ and to live your life the way Wes would’ve lived his-full of forgiveness, love for others, and selflessness. You will always be in my prayers. Proverbs 17:9 says, “love prospers when a fault is forgiven.” Love will abound because you are forgiven.  I forgive you and I love you.”