Fri August 08 2008
Posted Aug 8, 2008
By: Matt Oliver, Staff Writer
One year ago today, tragedy struck the Boone community as a hit-and-run accident claimed the life of Mark Snopek, 53, of rural Boone.
The incident occurred around 8:53 p.m., while Snopek was riding his bicycle on County Road R18, also known as L Avenue.
The Boone County Sheriff's Office responded and Snopek was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to a witness report, Snopek was traveling northbound on the road and was struck from behind by a dark colored vehicle. From there, the vehicle fled the scene and continued northbound.
Witnesses alerted authorities via a cell phone call and the Woodward Fire Department, Boone County Ambulance, Woodward Police Department and the Iowa State Patrol responded to the scene.
Since that time, there have been various leads which were exhausted, resulting without a conviction of whoever was responsible for Snopek's death.
"Right now it's kind of a cold case," said Ron Fehr, Boone County Sheriff. "But we're taking any information on leads."
Kevin Griggs, a close friend and former coworker of Snopek, decided he would do all that he could to assist Snopek's family in a time of need. Griggs, along with other close friends of the family, came up with the idea of a reward about a month-and-a-half after the accident occurred.
"At the time in Boone County, there were a couple of instances where a reward was successful," Griggs said.
With that in mind, Griggs created the Mark Snopek Reward Pledge Fund to assist Snopek's family.
"It's to help bring closure to Kay (Snopek's wife) and the family and to see to it that whoever did this is brought to justice," he said.
Over a short span of time the Boone community responded to the cause in a generous fashion.
"Our original hope was, 'Boy, we would really like to hit $5,000 or maybe $10,000," Griggs said. "In a matter of a few weeks we were close to $15,000 and we didn't really expect that to happen."
Griggs noted that those who have pledged monetary support were mostly friends, families and coworkers. However, many people who did not know Snopek personally contributed as well.
"There were also people who simply heard the story and wanted to donate," he said.
In regards to the contributions, Griggs wished to thank all those who have shown their generosity.
"Thank you for the support so far," Griggs said. "We are still very optimistic that the case will come to a resolution."
Griggs explained that pledges were collected, and if and when someone is convicted for the death of Snopek, the reward will be granted to whoever comes forward.
He said he is convinced someone has to have valuable information concerning the case.
"I very much think somebody out there knows something," he said.
As the investigation continues, and Griggs and the family are hoping for closure, he said additional pledges will continue to be accepted.
"We are still collecting pledges and anyone can pledge additional funds by sending me an e-mail," he said.
Pledges can be made by contacting Griggs via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (515) 230-7044.
Griggs' friendship with Snopek began approximately six years ago, when he hired Snopek to work at the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) as a wetland ecologist. At the time of the interview, Snopek made an immediate impact on his future coworkers.
"The whole staff was really impressed with his abilities and what he could do for our office," Griggs said.
Upon Snopek's hiring at the DOT, he and his wife Kay, made the move to rural Boone from a very remote and rural area in the Catskill Mountains near West Shokan, N.Y.
Griggs described Snopek as being one of the kindest people he has ever met. "He was the kindest, most generous, open, honest and giving person I think I had ever met," he said.
On occasion, Snopek and his wife would get together with Griggs and his wife, Danielle, and their two sons, Talynn, 12, and Trevor, 5. "They were both very fond of both of our children," Griggs said.
Griggs, who is an environmental consultant, shared a common bond with Snopek and his wife. "We were all crazy about the outdoors and would be outside whenever we could," he said.
Griggs said that Snopek was an avid bicyclist and he biked frequently, and rode approximately 75 miles each week. Not only did he enjoy his hobby, but he made safety a first, as Griggs said Snopek's bicycle was fully equipped with flashing lights and he was also wearing a helmet and a reflective vest on the night of the incident.
"He was very safety conscious," Griggs said.
Being close to Snopek and his wife, Griggs said that Snopek maintained a very close relationship with his wife, Kay.
"Kay and Mark were the best partners in the world," he said.
Griggs described the couple as being very adventurous. They would bike and canoe together and enjoy the outdoors whenever possible.
"They were best friends," Griggs said. "They were that perfect couple that you always hear about."
Kay echoed Griggs, and mentioned that her husband enjoyed fishing and snorkeling in the Canadian boundary waters.
"He enjoyed fishing, but was so gentle with the fish," Kay said.
Kay also explained that her husband would only catch and release fish. She said she probably has 1,000 photographs of him catching fish with a big smile on his face.
Both Kay and her husband grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Cudahy, which then had an approximate population of 20,000.
They met in high school chemistry class, in 1971, when they were 16 years old."Some people would say there was a chemistry," Kay said.
From there, the two high school sweethearts attended their junior prom, which was their first date. They then went off to college, where they were separated for a few years. However, love found its way and they married in 1979.
"We did everything together," she said. "We really knew each other."
Since the time of Snopek's death, Kay has been keeping herself busy.
"It's been pretty tough," Kay said. "I've kept myself amazingly busy, which is kind of what I do as a coping mechanism."
She said the death of her husband has been a life-changing event, that is somewhat hard for others to grasp.
"People consider me a strong person," she said. "But unless you've gone through something like this, there's really no way to understand."
Kay noted that her friends have been very supportive, as her family members live in Wisconsin, Colorado and California.
"I'm very lucky to have fabulous friends here because I don't have any family from here," she said.
Kay also said that Griggs has been a very helpful friend during this time of need.
"He has just been so there for me and such a rock," Kay said. "We were friends before, but he just stepped in and has done so much."
At times, Kay's family has suggested that she move back to Milwaukee, but she wishes to remain in rural Boone. Today, Snopek's family will arrive in Boone to be with Kay.
"Mark did everything with great energy and passion and he'd jump in head first and really get into it," she said. "We're going to try to remember Mark and the fun things we did together."
As the Boone County Sheriff's Office has continued its investigation over the past year, Fehr said multiple vehicles in the area with damage, such as windshield damage, have been investigated. However, the damage to the investigated vehicles was unrelated and turned out to be caused by other reasons, such as accidents involving deer.
Like Griggs, Fehr said it's very likely that somebody has information that is vital to the investigation.
"Our concern right now is that the person that did this knows they hit somebody that evening and that if they have a conscience they should come forward," Fehr said.
Fehr also said any third parties, that may have not been involved, should come forward immediately. However, in order to receive the reward that Griggs is offering, the information provided must result in the conviction of whoever was responsible for Snopek's death.
Fehr said that if a conviction occurs, charges may vary depending on the circumstances of the incident. He said it may have been a juvenile or elderly person who was driving and became frightened. It could have also been somebody who was barred from driving, someone who had committed another infraction or someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"Those things are all taken into consideration," he said.
If and when a conviction takes place, Fehr said whoever is responsible could face charges of vehicular homicide, which is generally punishable by a prison sentence.
"Depending on the circumstances, those (factors) could all weigh in," Fehr said.
Just like Griggs, Fehr said it's time for a resolution to the case so that the family can be provided with closure.
"The family needs closure, that's what is important," he said.
Anyone with information regarding the death of Mark Snopek should contact the Boone County Sheriff's Office at 433-0524.
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