Sunday, September 4, 2011

Teen's text during trip to golf meet: Coach 'is going to kill us'

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More than a half hour before the Iowa State Patrol made contact with an SUV driven by Fairfield High School girls' golf coach Susie Steinbeck, Daryn Hamilton received a chilling text message.

At 7:19 a.m. Tuesday, a note appeared on the phone from his daughter, Elizabeth — a member of the team.

"Ohh myy goshh susie is going to kill us! She cant stay on the road! So in case this is the last time i talk to you i love you! :)"

Patrol officers later charged Susan Lynn Steinbeck, 59, of Fairfield, with driving drunk and child endangerment as she transported the golf team to a conference meet in Keokuk.

Steinbeck registered a preliminary blood-alcohol level of .212, according to Lee County District Court records — a level more than two and a half times Iowa's legal limit to operate a motorized vehicle.

Court records and Hamilton's account indicate another driver was concerned about the vehicle swerving on the road and flagged down the SUV to the side of the road, near the intersection of highways 218 and 16 in southeast Iowa.

"(My daughter) Liz complained to me in the past that Susie had problem controlling vehicles, wandering all over the road," said Daryn Hamilton, a Fairfield city councilman. "I kind of chalked it up to 'Some people don't pay much attention when they drive.'

"I kind of didn't think much of it. In retrospect, that probably wasn't the best thing."

Steinbeck could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Lee County officials said she appeared without an attorney in court Tuesday, before being released on her own recognizance. An online search of Iowa court records revealed no previous arrests or citations for Steinbeck. A preliminary hearing for Steinbeck has been scheduled for May 20.

The school's suburban was stopped at about the halfway point of a 50- to 60-mile trip between Fairfield and Keokuk. Hamilton said another parent was authorized to transport the team, which finished the trip and competed in the conference meet.

Fairfield superintendent Don Achelpohl indicated in a news release on the school's website that "the safety of the students was verified and the district made arrangements for the team to continue on to Keokuk. Parents were notified by Fairfield High School of the incident. The district is continuing to investigate the incident regarding possible further action."

Fairfield's website also indicated Steinbeck teaches computer-related classes at Fairfield Middle School.

Achelpohl, reached Wednesday, said the school declined any other comment beyond the news release.

Hamilton said he and his daughter exchanged approximately 65 text messages the morning of the arrest, as Elizabeth updated her family as details unfolded — and as State Patrol officers conducted field sobriety tests.

The team was scheduled to meet at the school by 7 a.m. and leave at 7:10, Hamilton said.

A number of team members expressed concern during the drive, he said.

"Liz said the girls in the van had been yelling at Susie to pull over," Hamilton said. "They said a person pulled alongside them — a private vehicle (not police) — to see if something was physically wrong with Susie."

According to court records, the State Patrol officer spoke with Steinbeck and "could smell an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from her breath."

Hamilton said he was unaware of concerns about Steinbeck's driving before this season, but said Fairfield officials were "very interested" when he mentioned that his daughter outlined "at least two other incidents" this season.

"The kids were pretty scared," Hamilton said. "I'm still upset about the situation. I don't know what's going to happen from here.

"Overall, the whole situation isn't good. I hope the right measures are taken from this point forward."


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