By Lauren Vane
June 24, 2006
Family and friends of Estancia High School graduate Brian “Bubba” Kapko filled a Colorado courtroom last week to see a man responsible for the death of their friend, son and brother sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Dennis White was sentenced June 16 after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for driving a car that was involved in a fatal police pursuit in Colorado.
While fleeing at high speeds from police, White hit a vehicle carrying 19-year-old Bubba Kapko, a Costa Mesa native who was attending Johnson and Wales University in Denver.
Kapko was the only person killed in the Aug. 28, 2005, accident.
When the Kapko family traveled to Colorado for White’s sentencing, it was the first time any family members had seen the man responsible for Bubba Kapko’s death.
"It’s almost like it happened all over again," Bubba Kapko’s oldest brother, Matt Kapko, said. "It was almost the same degree of pain because it’s just so in your face."
White appeared remorseful in the courtroom, Matt Kapko said.
"He said how different his life may have been if he had met somebody like Brian," Matt Kapko said.
White apologized to the family directly, and the Kapko family wants to believe his words are heartfelt, Matt Kapko said.
Kapko and his friends were returning from a volleyball tournament when their sport-utility vehicle was hit by a car driven by two men fleeing from police in a high-speed chase in Arvada, Colo.
The two men, White and his passenger, Matthew Wartena, were driving a stolen car. While attempting to get onto a freeway in Adams County, the stolen car hit the car Bubba Kapko was riding in.
White also pleaded guilty to attempted second degree murder for shooting and wounding another person the day Bubba Kapko died.
For the Kapko family, attending the sentencing wasn’t about seeing White receive his punishment, Matt Kapko said.
"It really doesn’t matter how many years or what the punishment was …. It really couldn’t make a difference to us," Matt Kapko said. "It’s really just mixed feelings."
Matt Kapko and other family and friends read statements in the courtroom before the sentencing.
"It was really difficult," Matt Kapko said.
Mike Scheafer, a longtime family friend of the Kapkos, said his son Eric Scheafer sent a statement to be read at court.
Eric Scheafer, now 20, and Bubba were close friends. The two families are similar, Mike Scheafer said. Both families include three boys.
"I know it’s still tough on the Kapkos, and it really is on all of us who knew Brian," Mike Scheafer said. "We miss him, more than anything."
The Kapko family is planning to return to Colorado later this summer for Wartena’s trial, scheduled for Aug. 21.
The family will look forward to working with the foundation set up in Bubba Kapko’s name.
In addition to an annual golf tournament, the family will be thinking more about the foundation’s mission, Matt Kapko said.