Man sentenced for role in teen's drowning death - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Man sentenced for role in teen's drowning death

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(06/06/13) - Four years ago Wednesday, a teenager drowned in the Tittabawassee River.

The death of 17-year-old Trent Ripper was the focus of an ABC12 Investigates story we aired last month.

A graduation party in 2009 turned tragic when Ripper's car ended up in the Tittabawassee River in Midland County's Edenville Township.

While a number of people were charged in relation to the party, no one has ever been charged for Ripper's death. Thursday, the man who was having the graduation party was sentenced for his role in the case.

The criminal and civil proceedings are now done, but people on opposite sides in this case want the same thing - to find out how the car ended up in the river.

"It was a big mistake when I was 18 years old, coming out of high school, and I regret it," said Clayton Gibbs, Jr.

That regret is the party that was held along the Tittabawassee River. The party four years ago was for Clayton Gibbs, Jr, and it was at that party that Ripper drowned in his car, after it ended up in the river.

The property is owned by Gibbs' parents.

After pleaded to tampering with evidence, and furnishing alcohol to minors, Gibbs was sentenced to 18 months probation and no jail time. This disappointed Ripper's mom.

"I think that there was a message sent to Midland County that it's OK to host a party and to serve minors alcohol and those who host are not going to lose the most," said Annette Ripper.

This marks an end to the criminal and civil proceedings in this case, but both sides agree that this is not over.

"That's my family's biggest objective, is to find out what happened, we still don't know what happened," Gibbs said.

Last month, the man who was in the car with Trent Ripper, Justin Hill, told ABC12 he believes the car was pushed into the river by a group of people. Gibbs and Annette agree.

"I definitely think the car was pushed in," Gibbs said.

"The young men who pushed that car in the water come forward, names have been named, and you guys know who you are," Annette said.

She says she will push for tougher penalties for people who supply alcohol to minors.

"People think about Trent and the fact that he is not here with us anymore, and the reason is minors were drinking, and if you are thinking about hosting a party, is it worth it? It wasn't worth it for me," Annette said.

Gibbs is receiving the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which means his criminal conviction will be expunged if he successfully completes his probation.

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