Emotional outpouring for victim of deadly hit-and-run

FRESNO, Calif.

The driver who left the scene pleaded "no contest" to vehicular manslaughter and a couple other charges. Jacob Ward originally agreed to serve a nine-year sentence. But after the judge heard from a man who survived the crash and the family of the woman who was killed, he added two years to Ward's sentence.

The longer sentence clearly gave an emotional boost to Lorri Lassotovitch's family. But the one person who was best at healing them will never lay her hand on them again.

As his Ford Bronco burned down to a charred shell, Jacob Ward went on the run from the scene of the crash he caused that killed a 50-year-old mother of three. Right before her life ended in November 2010, Lorri Lassotovitch was listening to her longtime boyfriend serenading her.

"We put on a song, her favorite song on the radio and I started singing it for her and I remember just before we got hit, I told her I loved her and after that I don't remember anything," said Kenneth Bailey.

Bailey was taking Lassotovitch over to her daughter's house to show her how to make stuffing. It was the day before Thanksgiving and Lassotovitch's girls say giving was what their mother did best.

They wore her picture into the courtroom Friday to watch a judge punish Ward for killing her. While they were glad to see justice served, they're still suffering emotionally.

"And you can't imagine the guilt I feel," said Stephanie Danielsen, the daughter who needed help with stuffing. "If I didn't call my mother and ask her for a favor -- and her being her, of course she was going to come -- she wouldn't have been on the road."

At the scene of the crash her daughters found, Lassotovitch's favorite sunglasses, some of her CDs and a lottery scratcher. They're still holding on to those last pieces of their mother, and the memories they have, but they say those memories are now tainted and the Thanksgiving holiday is ruined forever. But when a judge sentenced the man who killed her, they took one big step toward moving on.

"It's like the whole time, people move on and forget that there was a Lorri Lassotovitch and our world has stopped, but everything else keeps going and it's a real weird feeling," said daughter Michelle Ripley. "Today, it finally felt like they were remembering and they cared."

Action News talked briefly with Ward's mother right after the sentencing. She said her son is full of remorse. He turned himself in after the crime, and she said he's been in tears over what he did. Ward will be eligible for parole in as little as eight years.

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