FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The driver responsible for a wrong way wreck that took the lives of two young girls was sentenced Monday to 24 years in prison and six years of probation.READ MORE: Florida’s Surgeon General Asked To Leave Meeting At State Senator’s Office After Refusing To Wear Mask
Kayla Mendoza was under the influence when she crashed head-on on the Sawgrass Expressway, killing 21-year old Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante and 21-year old Marisa Caran Catronio in November 2013.
Mendoza was facing a maximum of 30 years in prison for two counts of DUI Manslaughter.
During the emotional sentencing hearing there was a torrent of emotions – sadness, anger, devastation.
“How do you forgive someone who ruined your life and your family’s lives forever?” said Dustin Catronio, Marisa’s brother.
Kaitlyn Ferrante’s mother told Mendoza that she tore her family apart.
“You took took everything I worked so hard to keep safe and protected and destroyed it in one careless second, you destroyed it all,” Ferrante said.
The victims’ families directed their anger at the self-described pothead princess at the sentencing hearing Monday. Mendoza tweeted ‘2 drunk to care’ then hours later drove drunk, the wrong way at high speeds on the Sawgrass Expressway in November 2013, killing both Catronio and Ferrante.
“Drinking and driving is not an accident,” said Ferrante’s sister, Ashley. “No one accidentally does it. It’s a reckless and careless mistake.”
The families of the victims told Mendoza her actions mean that these two young women would never start careers, get married or have children.
“I so wanted that first dance at her wedding which I’ll never have,” Gary Catronio said, weeping. “I want her back.”
And the parents are left with pain that no parent should endure. Natalie Catronio, Marisa’s mother, wrote a letter that a family member read in court. She mentioned her visits to Marisa’s grave.READ MORE: Finding This Year’s Most Popular Toys May Be Challenging Because Of Supply Chain Issues
“It kills me when I have to leave her because I can just imagine her screaming after me, ‘Mom please don’t leave me here,” Natalie Catronio wrote. “And always I turn back to blow her a kiss and tell her how sorry I am that I couldn’t protect her that night.”
Mendoza wept too and apologized for her actions.
“No matter how much time passes, I will live with that every day – that I took their life,” Mendoza said. “The guilt is overwhelming.”
Mendoza asked for mercy and a lighter sentence based on her remorse and her guilty plea but the judge refused, ending her away for 24 years and adding on six years of probation. The victim’s families said the punishment is fair.
“No sentencing will ever bring my daughter but we are pleased with what the judge handed down to her,” Christine Ferrante said.
“It doesn’t put behind us what we go through on a daily basis for what we lost that can’t be replaced,” Gary Catronio said.
Under state law, Mendoza will not walk free until she is in her early 40’s. The victim’s families asked a judge to make an example of Mendoza for others about the dangers of drinking and driving and they believe the judge did. The victim’s families also continue to fight for safeguards to protect this community and others from wrong way drivers.
Mendoza admitted she was under the influence at the time of the accident.
Mendoza’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
In a video deposition taken by lawyers for the victims’ families, Mendoza said she has no recollection of driving on the highway or the crash. However, she did recall going out with drinks with co-workers the night of accident.
At the time, she was only 20-years old. The receipt from Tijuana Taxi shows the underage Mendoza drank two large house margaritas and had two other drinks of Patron Silver tequila. The receipt shows a payment of $65.78. The receipt does not show that Mendoza ate anything.
The Florida Highway Patrol says at some point that night or the next morning Mendoza tweeted “2 drunk 2 care.”
Mendoza said the tweet has been taken out of context. She said it didn’t mean that she was going to get behind the wheel and whatever happened, happened. Instead, she said, it was meant for her boyfriend because the two had just recently argued.MORE NEWS: Experts Don't Anticipate National Supply Chain Crisis To End Anytime Soon
A benefit concert has been set up in Marisa Catronio’s name. For information and more details, click here.