"The morning of Dec. 9, 2017, I was told my parents had passed away," said Daniel Mendez, Jr., the son of victims Daniel and Ramona Mendez. "That night prior, I was supposed to go with my father instead of my mom. She decided to not wake me up. My parents were killed by a man that stands in this courtroom today. Since this accident, everything has completely changed in my life."
"This man didn't only kill my loving parents, he killed a part of us - my siblings and I," said their daughter, Sarah Casas. "Our lives will never be the same. I feel like 'what did we do to deserve this?' I have days when I cry or I'm mad because I wish I would've been in the car and not my mom so my siblings would at least have one living parent. I miss my parents' hugs or text messages or seeing them loving on their grandbabies. I would never have thought in a million years that my parents would be killed by a drunk driver. We never got a chance to say I love you or goodbye."
"Our entire family expresses incredible remorse and I believe I speak on their behalf for your loss," said Dedra Card, whose son is the driver, Michael Merritt-Hutchins. "I can only pray that they experience healing that alleviates the pain and that they find comfort. In the early months of his incarceration he would ask me, 'Mom, why am I still here? Why me?' And I can only say that God's not done with you yet, son."
"I want to apologize and I want to say sorry that I couldn't apologize sooner," Merritt-Hutchins told the Mendez family. "If it wasn't for the advice of my attorney and this process, I would've apologized sooner."
Judge David Gottlieb sentenced Merritt-Hutchins to eight years in prison. The maximum possible punishment was 12 years.
Sarah Casas talking about losing her parents.— Corin Hoggard (@corinhoggard) February 13, 2019
Her young brother was supposed to be with their dad, but mom took his place that morning. pic.twitter.com/ns9UIsZGbE
Merritt-Hutchins apologizes to the Mendez’s family, which clearly had an emotional effect on both Sarah and Daniel, Jr. pic.twitter.com/eqgLHyZYsZ— Corin Hoggard (@corinhoggard) February 13, 2019
"My hope is that the impact you have and they will have going on into the future is to help prevent these things from continuing to happen," the judge told the families.
"I don't hate the man that killed my parents," Sarah Casas said. "I forgive him, but today I just want justice for my parents."