A 19-year-old Uniondale woman will serve 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to driving drunk and crashing into a West Hempstead building last year, killing her passenger, the mother of two young children.
Daritza Lopez wept as she told Nassau County Judge Jerald Carter that she thinks every day of how she took her friend Herica Contreras, 28, of Uniondale, away from her children.
"I understand the nature of my crime and take responsibility for it," she said in court Tuesday. "I want to make amends to her family and friends, and everyone else who was affected by her death."
Prosecutors said Lopez lost control of her car Nov. 29 while traveling east on Hempstead Turnpike at Westminster Road. Her vehicle struck a parked car, crossed the westbound lanes of the turnpike, entered a closed gasoline station and slammed into a building at 130 Hempstead Tpke., police said.
Prosecutor Everett Witherell asked Carter in court Tuesday to sentence Lopez, who pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter, drunken driving and other charges, to 5 to 15 years in prison. Her attorney, Michael DerGarabedian of Rockville Centre, had opposed that sentence, and asked Carter to give Lopez youthful offender status, which Carter did.
Contreras' sister, Monica Contreras, said no amount of jail time would make things right.
"Even if she does get that sentence, for my family it won't matter because it won't bring my sister back," she said.
Before announcing his sentence, Carter said he had been influenced by a letter Monica Contreras had written to the court in which she said her deceased sister would want mercy for Lopez.
"I would like to implement what your sister would have had me do at this time," he said, keeping in mind that Lopez also has two young children, ages 2 and 4.
"She needs to be punished. But this should not be another execution of her life and her children's lives," Carter said.