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More from MoCo DUI crash hearing: A forgiving widow

Courtrooms play host to all manner evil. But sometimes, the goodness can be stunning ...

This week, in Montgomery County, the widow of one of two men killed by a drunk driver stood up and publicly forgave the driver.

"I don't want to have this sentiment in my soul, because I don't want my soul to be poisoned. I want to tell her that I forgive her," Irene Reyes told Circuit Judge Louise G. Scrivener, who was about to sentence Kelli Loos for killing Reyes' husband and her husband's close friend, Gradys Mendoza.

As Reyes's words were translated from Spanish, Loos sobbed loudly from her table.

"God bless her, and I hope she can be rehabilitated," Reyes said.

She was among 20 people who spoke at the emotional hearing Wednesday, which ended with Loos's getting 10 years in the vehicular manslaughter deaths of the two well-liked men, and in leaving the scene of the crash. She probably will serve less than half her sentence, and will be eligible for parole within two years because under Maryland rules vehicular manslaughter is considered a nonviolent offense.

Here are excerpts from three others who spoke at the hearing:

Gill Cochran, Loos's attorney:

"People say, 'How can you defend people in these circumstances?' Well she needs a defense, because she is still a good person that did a bad thing. But she did this with no malice … I once had a learned judge tell me that we put people in jail we fear. We don't put people in jail that we dislike. Everybody dislikes this woman right now, I understand that. But I don't fear her if we give her the proper treatment."

Maria Mendoza, the widow of Mendoza, questioned remarks by Cochran that the wreck constituted a "triple tragedy" for three families: The two victims' families and Loos's family.

"They can go and visit her. But for my children, where can I take them to visit their father. When is he going to come and hug my children? When? Not now, or ever. … Nothing is going bring my husband back. Nothing is going to bring back those dreams that were destroyed that 7th day of July."

Mark Anderson, who prosecuted the case, described what happened after Loos's Jeep Cherokee struck the back of Mendoza’s pickup truck on the Capital Beltway, which sent Mendoza’s truck airborne down the side of a 60-foot ravine. Manzanares was crushed, and died inside the truck. Mendoza died on the way to Suburban Hospital.

“It took the fire department about three to four hours to remove Mr. Manzanares from the truck, because of how mangled the truck was, and how his body was trapped.”

Loos “made a decision to get into a car, when she’s probably seeing double. Can’t even stand up straight,” Anderson said. “That is why so much money is spent in education as to why you don’t drive drunk. Why every day, for the last couple of weeks – because I guess it’s prom season – in front of all the local high schools, what is there? A smashed up car, with why you don’t drive drunk.”

-- Dan Morse

By Dan Morse  |  May 24, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Dan Morse , Montgomery  
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