The family and friends of a young Savannah woman, who was killed when a drunk driver swerved in front of her car, are finally getting some closure. They lost 21-year-old LaToya Holloway in February, 2006.
She was driving down Ogeechee Road. Two illegal immigrants driving an SUV were coming the other way. Garden City police say both men were drunk. Jesus Perez was driving, but the passenger, Felix Maldonado, grabbed the steering wheel, swerving the car across the center line. They slammed head on into Holloway's car, killing her.
The judge gave Perez 15 years. Maldonado, who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, was sentenced to ten years in prison on Tuesday. Those who are close to Holloway say they're not satisfied.
"To me, that was one of the worst tragedies that could have ever been," said Jerry Causey.
Causey, who's a regular customer at the Circle K convenience store on Ogeechee Road where LaToya Holloway used to work, remembers her fondly.
"LaToya was a person who loved everybody," he said.
It's been more than a year since the crash that took her life just down the road from where she worked. Causey still carries her picture.
"LaToya was like one of my children," Causey said. "I've got a child as old as she is. We always talked about the Bible because she really was into the Bible, too, and if she had a problem, we'd sit down and talk about it. LaToya was a lovely person."
"She was happy go lucky," said Jessica Weldon, "everybody's friend."
Weldon was proud to call LaToya her friend. Unfortunately, that's not the only bond she shares with Jerry Causey. He was the one who told her about the crash.
"I just fell to the floor because I couldn't believe it," Weldon said, "and I was boo-hoo crying and I thought, why? What happened?"
Both are glad the men convicted in her death are now in prison, but they say their sentences, even passenger Maldonado's, should have been tougher.
"When he grabbed the steering wheel, he took that girl's life," said Causey. "He took the steering wheel. Whether he was driving or not, he took her life as much as the other one."
"Honestly, I think he should get a little bit more than that because I think it was a tragedy that could have been prevented," said Weldon, "if they weren't playing around and doing what they were doing.
"I miss her," she added. "I do."
"It still hurts to this day," said Causey.
Garden City police said what made the case more challenging, neither Perez nor Maldonado speak English. Chief David Lyons said there can also be an issue of trust when officers deal with illegal immigrants.
"They don't trust us, because they're not here legally," he said. "And they think everybody is out looking for them."
Lyons said they want to protect the entire community, even those who are here illegally. They also don't have the resources to deport illegal immigrants.