Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer
Rush’s family leans on her example to cope with her tragic death
TULSA, Oklahoma — On the night of May 1, Chance Rush spoke on parenting to the Lower Sioux Indian Community in Sherman Township, Minnesota.
Over 700 miles away and a few hours later, the person responsible for providing the example that all his words and lessons on parenting came from was gone.
Being out of town was not anything new for Chance. Marketed as everything from a motivational speaker and comedian to staff developer and event facilitator, he keeps a full schedule. Traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s worked with over 500 tribal communities, colleges, conferences and festivals.
And watching her grandkids while Chance was out of town was nothing new for Donna Rush. Many nights, she traveled the turnpike home to El Reno from her son’s home in Tulsa. And this night was no different than any other, until it was not.
“She was leaving my home, she hugged all of my children and just kind of left some rules for us,” Chance said. “Like ‘throw your leftovers away after three days, stay in your son’s life constantly, whatever you have to do to take care of your wife.’ After we hung up and got off the phone, she was on her way home and she normally calls when she gets home but this time she never called. I got a phone call at 4 a.m. with the news.”
The news was devastating. Donna had been struck from behind on the Kilpatrick Turnpike and killed.
Compounding the devastation for Chance was the fact that he was 15 hours away from his family at a time when they would perhaps need him the most. He was also scheduled to be at the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota for their annual youth conference the next night.
Dealing with the shock of the news and the wave of emotions he was experiencing, Chance was not sure what his next move was.
“You know, normally what you’re supposed to do is jump up and get your clothes and try to get to the quickest airport or find a rental car and drive home… and that was on my mind,” he said.
Chance began to think about how his mother had brought him up with strong spirituality. He got off the phone with his brother and could not cry, could not process any of it. So the former national champion and All-American collegiate track and field runner did what came naturally: exercise.
“I started doing pushups outta nowhere, just cause the adrenaline was there,” he said. “When I was doing those push-ups I heard my mom’s voice. She says ‘don’t go home, you go to Red Lake, there’s somebody up there that needs you. There’s somebody up there that needs to hear your words. There’s somebody up there who’s hurt. There’s somebody up there who’s broken and you’re a vessel.’ ”
Chance cried the whole way to Red Lake until he could not cry anymore. That night, he served as the master of ceremonies for a fashion show honoring the women of the community. He talked about seeing all the grandmas and granddaughters coming out from behind the curtains. And just when he was ready to break again, the Red Lake drum group “Little Bear” started singing a women’s song.
“It just brought me back up,” Chance said. “The spirit just brought me back up, so I was able to take care of my responsibility. In that moment, I found a peace that my mom shared with me and that God helped guide me, and that was do your duties and then come home.”
Adding to the tragedy of Donna’s death, the following days revealed that a drunk driver had struck her.
According to court documents, Edmond resident and OKC businessman Arthur Wesley Straehla III had ‘struck the rear of Rush’s vehicle in excess of 140 miles per hour in his 2000 Porsche.’
Despite the accident report indicating Straehla smelled of alcohol, he was not arrested at the time and was sent home with a family member instead.
An official from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol told KFOR News in Oklahoma City that a “miscommunication” between troopers is the reason Straehla was not jailed on suspicion of DUI the night of the crash.
An OHP spokesperson told KFOR, “Given the limited information the trooper had at the scene, he did not have enough probable cause to make an immediate arrest at that time.”
Straehla was arrested, however, hours later on a blood draw warrant signed by an Oklahoma County judge.
According to the search warrant affidavit obtained by KFOR, Straehla’s condition was stated as ‘under the influence of alcohol to an extreme degree, having a strong alcohol odor, soiled his clothes, an indifferent attitude, extremely slurred speech, watery eyes, falling, staggering and sluggish.’
These revelations in the media certainly shocked and angered Donna’s family.
“I am disappointed,” Donna’s daughter Effie Babcock told KFOR. “It angers me because if he was treated and released, why wasn’t he arrested?”
Straehla was officially booked for DUI, first-degree manslaughter and reckless driving May 7, six days after the accident.
According to court documents obtained by KFOR, Straehla now faces a new charge of second-degree murder and his bail request has been denied. He was due back in court Aug. 16.
“The Donna Rush family will have opportunities to engage the District Attorney on a continuing basis,” Wilson Pipestem, the attorney representing the Rush family, said. “He has promised that they will have a voice in what happens. He will make the ultimate decision about what will be done on behalf of the citizens of Oklahoma, but he’s promised the Rush family that they will have a role and be able to talk to him before he makes any decisions.”
Pipestem also indicated that the Donna Rush family intends to aggressively pursue every opportunity to seek out justice for the loss of their mother.
“I knew Donna Rush, she is also Otoe Missouria,” Pipestem said. “She was a beautiful sweet spirited woman. And talking to her family about their mother, she was a woman that defined by her faith, as a woman of faith.”
It is that faith Chance is holding onto to help him heal and to get him through what has been one of the most difficult trials he has ever faced.
“When you’re obedient to spirituality, God will see you through horrific tragedy,” Chance said. “I’m in a great place now because my mom taught me spirituality.”