As Robin Berry's family members poured out their sorrow over her senseless death, the man who killed her, a repeat drunken driver, wept Wednesday.
Jose Fuentes-Sanchez, 29, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to homicide by vehicle in the first degree, driving under the influence, and driving after being declared a habitual violator. The judge accepted the plea negotiation for a 16-year prison sentence.
Mrs. Berry, 45, had driven to Augusta in the early morning hours of June 9 from her home in Cochran, Ga. She was meeting the ambulance transporting her daughter-in-law and sick granddaughter to the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center.
She made a wrong turn into Regency Mall but realized the mistake and backtracked. Mrs. Berry was sitting at the light at Richmond Hill and Deans Bridge roads when Mr. Fuentes-Sanchez slammed his vehicle into her driver's side door. His blood alcohol level was 0.202.
He had three prior DUI convictions, District Attorney Danny Craig said.
"My name is Jose Fuentes-Sanchez, and I'm an alcoholic," he began when given a chance to speak.
"I am so sorry," he repeated over and over, a lament echoed by his wife and mother.
Mr. Fuentes-Sanchez was a good worker, husband and father, his attorney said. His wife just had a baby.
Mrs. Berry was a joy to her family, the one everyone depended on, the one with the smile and encouragement. She died doing what she always seemed to be doing, helping others, her brother said.
It was safe to say that everyone in the courtroom was angry at him, Vivian Fuentes-Sanchez said of her husband. Both families are being punished for his mistake, she said.
Kate Mason, of the public defender's office, told Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet that Mr. Fuentes-Sanchez knew he would be going to prison and might be deported when released, but he wanted to plead guilty and spare Mrs. Berry's family and his family from a trial.
"I wish I could take it back. I wish I could take it all back," Mr. Fuentes-Sanchez said.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.