Parents of five-month-old killed while in Leesburg crosswalk pushing for law changes

LEESBURG, Va. - If you turn onto Coton Manor Drive, off of Riverside Parkway, you may notice a series of houses with blue ribbons tied to light posts.

Some are worn, old, and faded, but their purpose remains the same--hope.

"I get up in the morning and I have to muster the strength to get through another day, literally give myself a pep talk, 'Alright I can do this,'" says Mindy Schulz.

The biggest blue ribbon wraps around a tree outside the home where Mindy lives with her husband Rod, and their oldest son, Hayden, 9.

The ribbons are in honor of their five-month-old son, Tristan. 

Mindy and Rod sat down with DCW50 to share her entire story on camera for the first time.

"Tristan was literally just constantly happy, bouncing and giggling," says Mindy. "As soon as he had a voice, he was always talking to me."

"Everyday, he would learn a new noise and he would just practice that noise all day," says Rod.

Back on August 31, 2016, Mindy took Tristan for a walk on the path outside their neighborhood.

From a full-time employee to a stay-at-home mom, she says she wanted to take advantage of every moment.

"I remember, I was going to make it a good day," she said. "Then it all went wrong."

While crossing Riverside Parkway, from Coton Manor Drive, in a crosswalk, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office says a Jeep Cherokee, driven by John Miller IV, hit them.

"I heard a noise and I turned and I remember thinking, where did you come from you're going too fast," says Mindy.

She went to the hospital with serious injuries.

Tristan went to the hospital as well, but doctors told Mindy and Rod, their five-month-old little boy didn't make it.

"I went from having hope to my entire life just crashing."

Court records show Miller was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, and failure to yield.

However, the manslaughter charge was dropped after cell phone examination found nothing more than 'lone activity powering the phone,' or charging, according to documents.

The Shultz' says some of the witnesses of the crash said that they saw Miller on his phone, but Miller's attorney argues that was not the case.

He says Miller never hit his brakes, which means he never saw Mindy and Tristan, and they believe the left post pillar, on the dashboard of Miller's car, created a blind spot.

Miller was sentenced to a year behind bars, the maximum penalty for the misdemeanor reckless driving charge.

"We were looking for responsibility and accountability," says Mindy.

Despite no findings in court of distracted driving, Mindy and Rod wanted to advocate for stricter laws.

They teamed up with DRIVE SMART Virginia, a group that does just that.

"Essentially if you're driving down the road with your eyes closed and no one can say your eyes are closed, and you hit somebody, you say, 'Oh, well I didn't see them,' you get a reckless driving," says Mindy.

Janet Brooking, Executive Director of DRIVE SMART, says their number one goal is to push for a "hands-free" law.

"I think that it’s clear that our laws are not strong enough when it comes to distracted driving in Virginia," she says. "If you hit somebody and you cause them injury or death, whether you’re impaired with alcohol or whether you’re impaired with distraction you should have a similar sentence."

A "hands-free" bill failed in the General Assembly this year, but Brooking says she plans to work with families like the Shultz' to help spark change.

"I think moving forward we will be working very closely with families to reach those legislators," she says.

Meanwhile, the Schulz have found additional ways to share Tristan's legacy.

Mindy created a Facebook page, Tristan's Light, a way to encourage of share different random acts of kindness.

This year, on his birthday, they asked local businesses to donate a portion of their proceed to Comfort Zone Camp in Richmond, a camp that gears grieving help towards each individual age group.

They also provided lunch at a local fire department for two crews, and they are collecting stuffed animals for first responders to give to kids in emergency situations.

"Partly the way I was raised and partly my own personal belief is you do what you can to make the world a better place," says Mindy. "Trying to funnel the energy, good, bad, trauma, everything in-between, into something good, is what has kept me alive."

After going through yet another heartbreaking loss, a miscarriage, the Schulz' are now pregnant and expecting a little girl.

She'll never get to officially meet her big brother, but she'll get to know him and the legacy he left behind, pretty quickly.

"I don’t how a life of five months has made more of an impact in this world than I could ever do in a lifetime."