A grieving father and husband told the man who killed three members of his family that he'd forgiven him and gently rebuked a community that hadn't embraced the same sentiment.
"I want Carlos to know I forgive him," said Gary Ceran during today's sentencing of Carlos Rodolfo Prieto, 25.
Ceran tearfully explained that if Prieto could look him in the eye, shake his hand and promise such tragedy wouldn't be repeated, that would be enough.
"Hasn't there been enough suffering," he added, saying that if a Caucasian legally in the United States had been driving sober but still ran a red light the results would have been the same.
"We hope people are praying for him as well as us."
Prieto, who pleaded guilty in April to three third-degree felony counts of automobile homicide, was ordered to serve two consecutive terms of up to five years in prison and another term was set to run concurrently.
In issuing the sentence, 3rd District Court Judge Vernice Trease said she had to balance the gravity of Prieto's crime against his lack of any criminal record, his demonstration of remorse, his own role as a good father and what he's done since he was jailed Christmas Eve.
Police said Prieto was driving drunk, ran a red light and smashed his pickup truck into a car carrying the family of six. Cheryl Ceran, 47, and her son, Ian Ceran, 15, died at the scene. A daughter, Julianna Ceran, 7, was flown to a hospital, but died later. Gary Ceran, 45, had minor injuries. Caleb Ceran, 12, and Clarissa Ceran, 19, were also injured. The survivors were in the back seat of the car.
Since being jailed, Trease noted that Prieto had embraced responsibility for his actions and taken part in six courses, including alcohol rehabilitation and mental health counseling.
Prieto, who said he prays nightly about what happened, was crying through most of the sentencing.
"I want to thank this wonderful man for forgiving me. I know what I have done. I am taking my responsibility. I wish I could give my life so he could have his happiness back."
He added that he struggles with his lack of ability to change what did happen.
"I wish I could do something to ease their pain, heal their hearts. There is not a day I don't think about it ... I'm saying this from right inside my heart."
The family was headed home Christmas Eve last year after some last minute shopping when the crash happened at 2:24 a.m. at the intersection of 5400 South and 700 West in Murray.
Cheryl Ceran was driving east on 5400 South, just a half mile from the entrance to southbound I-15, which would have taken them home to Cedar Hills. Prieto's truck was traveling north on 700 West when it ran the light. He was not seriously hurt in the collision.
Court documents said Prieto told police he had consumed five beers.The shopping trip had followed a cast party at the Hale Center Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol," where Gary Ceran played Bob Cratchit. Several fund-raisers and benefit performances were held in days after the tragedy to benefit the Ceran family.
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