Several members of a Georgia woman's family stood before a judge in Houston County Superior Court recently and tearfully told her what the loss of a 42-year-old woman -- a wife, mother, daughter and sister -- meant to them.
The family members testified at the sentencing hearing for a 27-year-old man who was convicted of driving the wrong way in a head-on crash that killed the woman.
A member of the Georgia Army National Guard and a former officer at the Macon State Prison, the man was dressed in his military uniform as he pleaded guilty to charges of DUI, reckless driving, homicide by vehicle in the first degree, and hit and run. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison plus three years' probation.
On the night of the accident, the man entered Interstate 75 heading northbound in the southbound lanes. He side-swiped one car, then drove about seven miles before the head-on collision with the woman's car. The woman was heading home from her job at a nursing home in Perry. She had six surgeries to treat a number of internal injuries but died about 24 hours after the crash.
"Our family is still close, but we will never be the same again," the woman's mother said, adding that her daughter was "taken from us in a completely senseless and irresponsible act."
The judge said the man also must complete a substance abuse program before he can be released from prison. He likely will serve a minimum of four years before he can be considered for parole.
The man expressed remorse in his statements to the court, but that does not absolve him of responsibility. The victim's daughter will not have her mother as she grows up and her husband has been deprived of her companionship. The family also now is missing her income as a nurse.
In cases where a loved one is killed because of someone else's actions or negligent, family members may want to consider a wrongful death suit to seek compensation for lost wages, expenses and damages.