Despite the pain she's suffered and the tears she's shed in the 19 months since a drunken Brooklyn man killed her husband while driving the wrong way on the Northern State Parkway, a North Babylon woman told the man Monday she forgives him as he was sentenced in Suffolk County Court.
Michael Bowen, 51, was so drunk he didn't even know he was on Long Island when he turned around on the parkway in Dix Hills, came back west in the eastbound lanes and plowed head-on into Andre Menzies, 35, an NYPD officer returning home from work.
Bowen pleaded guilty last month to aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges. He was driving with a blood-alcohol content of .26 percent -- more than triple the legal limit of .08 percent -- and thought he was in Westchester County. Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson sentenced Bowen to 6 1/3 to 19 years in prison.
A tearful Natasha Menzies said both her husband and Jesus Christ would have forgiven Bowen, so she did, too.
"When he loved, he loved hard and always looked to help others," Natasha Menzies said as her husband's mother, Felicia Fisher, rubbed her back. "How do you go from a strong presence, a strong voice, to near silence?"
She told Bowen that he must live with the consequences of choosing to drink brandy with friends in Brooklyn before attempting to drive to Mount Vernon and that she believed laws against driving while intoxicated must be strengthened.
"I have prayed for you and your family despite my pain," she said to Bowen. "I have prayed that God keeps you and that you take this lesson and learn from it to do good and teach others that this can happen to them if they drive while intoxicated."
Menzies' daughter Melissa expressed the same thought in a statement read by Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco.
"When I heard Michael Bowen killed my father, I hated him," she wrote. "But if God can forgive him, why can't I?"
Bowen apologized to the family.
"I made a bad decision, and for this, I destroyed your family," he said, his voice wavering. "I'm sorry it wasn't me that was dead."
Hudson said he imposed the sentence at the request of the Menzies family, which wanted the case resolved quickly. Prosecutors had sought the maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
"This sentence is sufficiently severe to deter others," Hudson said, adding that he hopes Bowen takes Natasha Menzies' advice. "Be a blessing, and teach against drunk driving."