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A Patriot Ledger series: Summary | PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | UPDATES

Melanie's Story

A first-hand story from the grandfather of 13-year-old victim Melanie Powell
Memories of Melanie: A photo slideshow


State ranked among the worst in nation
Quincy judge was among first to take a hard line


TIMELINE: How Massachusetts drunken driving law has changed
Alcohol's causes and effects
How local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers
Busiest courts in state for drunken driving arraignments

The cost of drunken driving

Massachusetts fails compared with other states
Death toll from drunken driving

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Mother, son happy Melanie’s Bill signed

Fought for measure at State House after child was run down

The Patriot Ledger

An image of Melanie Powell graces her tombstone. The 13-year-old Marshfield girl was killed by a drunk driver in 2003.QUINCY - More than a year ago, Christine Leone and her young son, Nicholas, decided to take a walk after dinner with friends.

On Saturday afternoon, they finally finished that walk.

Nicholas Leone was struck on the afternoon of Aug. 10, 2004, along Palmer Street. The man who hit him was charged with drunken driving.

Fourteen months, five surgeries and 30 pieces of steel in his left leg later, the 9-year-old can walk and has shared his story with legislators at the State House to encourage them to pass Melanie’s Bill.

The bill, which creates tougher penalties for drunken drivers, was signed into law by Gov. Mitt Romney on Friday. To celebrate, the Leones decided to finish their walk.

“We felt safe doing it” because the bill had been passed, Christine Leone said.

“We just took the same walk. Neither one of us had been able to. ... We just couldn’t walk that street.

“This was an important step for the both of us to be able to start moving forward,” she said.

Nicholas is still growing, so he must have more surgeries as he nears adulthood.

In January, he will return to the hospital for an evaluation. But after eight months in a wheelchair, his mother is grateful that he can walk.

When the two found out the law would pass, “Nicholas just ran to me and he hugged me. He was like, ‘Finally, mom,’” Leone said.

She said she and her son joined the fight for Melanie’s Bill in August after reading several stories about it in The Patriot Ledger.

Her son told his story to representatives, hoping to get them to vote in favor of the bill.

“He’s been called a hero and in my eyes, yes, he’s a 9-year-old hero who wanted to change things to make a difference,” she said. “I’m proud to have a little boy like him as my son.”

The man accused of hitting her son while drunk, Alfred P. Gero of Dorchester, had previously been convicted of drunken driving.

Even though the law has passed, the Leones plan to stay in the spotlight.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure our roadsides are safe so we can take a walk without worrying about the car driving down the street,” she said.

Rachel Slajda may be reached at rslajda@ledger.com.



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