The pain was palpable Thursday morning as Daniel J. Hathorn faced the grief he wrought by driving after ingesting drugs and alcohol.
He broke the heart of Lucy Thompson's 83-year-old mother, who chose to forgive him, although her grief has nearly crushed her spirit, her daughters told the judge.
Ms. Thompson, 57, was on her way home after work Dec. 11 when Mr. Hathorn's Dodge pickup crossed the center line on Highland Avenue and struck her Honda Civic head on.
Ms. Thompson's injuries were so severe that no organ or tissue could be donated as she had wanted, her sisters told the judge.
It wasn't only Ms. Thompson's family in tears Thursday. Mr. Hathorn's family members struggled to convey the depths of sorrow for the grief he caused. Every day they pray for the comfort of Ms. Thompson's family, said Mr. Hathorn's young wife and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter.
Mr. Hathorn's blood-alcohol level was only 0.025, below the presumed intoxication level of .08, but toxicology results revealed that he had also ingested a prescription medication and cocaine, Assistant District Attorney Adam King said.
Assistant Public Defender Jason Hasty told the judge he has never seen a client more willing to take responsibility or more remorseful.
"I know what I'm saying right now will never make up for it, but I'm sorry," the 24-year-old Mr. Hathorn said.
"In these matters, everyone loses," Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. said.
In Richmond County Superior Court, Judge Brown sentenced Mr. Hathorn to 13 years in prison followed by two years on probation.
The judge also imposed 200 hours of community service that Mr. Hathorn is to do by sharing his story with others in hopes of stopping others from causing such tragedy.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.