Judge gives McKewon sentence of 4 years
Family, friends of Laurel Williams express their pain, loss
Kathy Williams said it took her months to get the strength to leave her home and begin doing normal things again.
"None of you will ever know the feeling, except some people who are here supporting me, to lose a child," she said through tears.
Williams, the mother of Laurel Williams, 19, who was killed in an alcohol-related car accident last October, said she has to "fight every day to live" to overcome her heartbreak.
Hers and other friends and family members' comments were made at a sentencing hearing last Friday at the Hayward courthouse for Katie McKewon, 20, who was driving the Ford Mustang that Laurel Williams was in at the time of the accident.
Both girls were 2006 graduates of Foothill High School. The accident occurred on the morning of Oct. 20, when they were headed home after a house party the night before. McKewon, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was driving south on Foothill Road just north of Highland Oaks Drive when she veered into the other lane of traffic, striking a Mercedes SUV, seriously injuring that driver and killing Williams, who was belted. She was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and four counts of felony DUI causing great bodily injury. Her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
At an April 11 hearing at the Pleasanton courthouse, McKewon plead no contest to the counts, and as part of a plea deal, she was to receive four years in prison. As part of the plea deal, a prior charge in June of last year for drunk in public and assault against a police officer was dropped. As part of today's sentencing, Judge Kevin Murphy ruled that McKewon would serve a total of four years in prison, with 228 days credited to her as having already been served. McKewon has been in Santa Rita Jail since last November. Also as part of her sentence, she will be required to pay restitution of $1,600 and a provocation fine of $1,600. The judge also required that she stay in an alcohol treatment program while in custody.
Recalling the accident that killed her daughter, Kathy Williams said she "didn't get to hold her hand, she wasn't taken to the hospital." She added that she'll never get to see her daughter, whom she called her "sunshine," graduate from college or get married.
"I'm not standing here with hatred," she said before the judge, and with McKewon seated nearby. "I'm standing here with anger."
The anger, she said, is because McKewon's incident last June should have been a wake-up call to her and her parents that she needed help for her drinking problem.
Laurel Williams' father Ken called the situation an unfortunate waste.
"I'm such a different person today than I was seven months ago," he told the judge.
"She killed her best friend," he added. "If the power of alcohol is more important than her friend, then she has a problem. She needs to be punished."
As part of his comments, Ken Williams added that he'd like for McKewon's vehicle be donated to a local organization for anti-DUI educational uses, such as the "Every 15 Minutes" program, which is held at Pleasanton's two high schools; or for the Pleasanton Police Department or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
After the victim's statements were made, McKewon stood up and read a letter of apology, looking back once to those in attendance.
"I want to apologize," she said through tears. "I wish that there was something I could do to take away all the pain you feel."
She added that she felt like the only thing she could do now is to change herself in a positive way.
After the sentencing ended, in a show of support, McKewon's parents shook hands with and hugged Ken Williams before leaving the courtroom.
Williams said he felt McKewon had remorse for what happened and said he doesn't want to harbor feelings of hatred. He reiterated that he hopes the community will learn from this tragic incident.
A hearing in the case against Paul Stonebarger, 21, who was charged separately with providing alcohol for the party McKewon and Williams attended, is scheduled for June 12 at the Pleasanton courthouse. If convicted, he could face six months to a year in prison and a substantial fine.