JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 27-year-old Jacksonville woman was sentenced Friday to 12 years in jail for causing a double fatal crash while driving drunk.
Jessamyn Sanders previously pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and must serve 85 percent of the 12-year sentence as required by state law.
She was driving an SUV when she failed to stop for a red light on Philips Highway last October, hitting another car and killing the 26-year-old driver, Janet Middleton. Her husband, 25-year-old Kareem Middleton, who was a passenger in that car, was critically injured and died the next day.
Investigators said Janet Middleton (pictured below with Kareem) was turning off Cypress Plaza onto Philips just after 2 a.m. Oct. 30 when her car was struck by Sanders' Ford Explorer.
A state test concluded that Sanders's blood alcohol content was .178 after the accident -- more than twice the legal limit in Florida.
The air ambulance ride and one day hospital stay for Kareem Middleton cost his family about $127,000, according to relatives.
Sanders was hospitalized with serious injuries but later recovered. She apologized many times while on the witness stand Friday afternoon.
"I'm so sorry, but I know sorry is not enough," she said while crying. "A parent should never have to bury their children, and I know sorry's not enough, but I pray."
Sanders' lawyers asked the judge for mercy and the four-year minimum sentence, saying she was active in church and charity, had a clean criminal record and was raising her 6-year-old son. But prosecutors said there was no excuse and her choice to get behind the wheel took two promising, young lives -- a happy couple with big aspirations and a desire to have children.
Sanders mother said her daughter had never been in trouble before last year's crash.
"I was not one to go out," Sanders said on the stand. "This was a very, very rare occasion. I cannot remember the last time I went out prior to this."
After 15 witnesses and four hours of testimony, the judge handed down the sentence prosecutors wanted.
The families of the Middletons said justice was served.
"I hope that for the sake of my son and daughter-in-law and Ms. Sanders, please don't drink and drive. Please. It affects families really badly," said Tina Middleton, Kareem's mother.
"When you take a life as delicate as these two, then you have to reap the benefits," said Anthony Middleton, Kareem's uncle.
"My heart goes out to her, and there's no hating in my heart for her," said Vontrecia Youmans, Janet's mother. "I hope somebody can get somebody when they start drinking, ask somebody to please drive them home safe."
Many in the Middletons' families said they forgive Sanders and are glad she gets a second chance at life once she gets out of prison.
Sanders' mother said she'll care for the woman's 6-year-old son while she's in prison. He'll likely be 18 when his mother is released.
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