WILKES-BARRE — Onix Gorbea-Lespier stood before a judge and the victim’s family Monday afternoon, mostly hanging his head as he quietly apologized for causing a 2011 crash that killed a McAdoo woman and severely injured her friend alongside Interstate 81 near Hazleton.
“There will never be closure for me. She will always be with me,” the 52-year-old Cumberland County man said of Kayla Bahrey, 18, who died after Gorbea-Lespier ran into her while Bahrey was helping push a friend’s disabled car.
Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb sentenced Gorbea-Lespier, of Mechanicsburg, to serve 18 months to three years behind bars, as was anticipated under a guilty plea entered by Gorbea-Lespier in April.
In addition to homicide by vehicle, Gorbea-Lespier also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault by vehicle, two counts of driving under the influence and a single count of careless driving.
“No, it’s not enough,” Bahrey’s mother, Mary Kay Corbett, told reporters after the sentencing was finished. “In our hearts, it could never be a long enough sentence.”
At the same time, Corbett — flanked by Bahrey’s father, Gene, along with a cousin, Sam Bahrey and an aunt, Christine Duffy — acknowledged in response to a reporter’s question that her daughter might have counseled forgiveness.
“She was a forgiving person. She was a kind person,” Corbett said. “But it should have been more.”
“We’re just glad it’s over,” Corbett said.
State police allege Gorbea-Lespier had a blood alcohol level of 0.084 percent after he struck Bahrey along the shoulder of the Interstate near Exit 141, the Hazleton South Beltway, where she had been helping push a disabled Dodge Neon driven by Tyler Paisley, then 18, of Mountain Top.
The state’s DUI threshold is 0.08 percent.
According to court papers, Gorbea-Lespier told police he was returning home after attending a picnic in Albrightsville and admitted to drinking prior to the crash, in which the Pontiac G6 he was driving struck Bahrey before crashing into the Neon.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross determined Bahrey’s cause of death was by multiple traumatic injuries, and the manner of death was homicide.
Paisley required surgery for his injuries, but survived.
The case against Gorbea-Lespier had been delayed pending a battle over whether a second blood-alcohol test performed on him could be admitted as evidence.
Gelb in 2012 ruled that the second test could not be admitted because state troopers did not provide Gorbea-Lespier a second warning that he faced license suspension for refusing the test.
Prosecutors appealed the ruling, and state Superior Court in April 2013 issued an opinion reinstating the results, stating that a second warning was not required. State Supreme Court in November denied an appeal of that Superior Court order.
Gorbea-Lespier, represented by attorney Demetrius Fannick, was in court for a pretrial hearing on April 11 when he entered the guilty plea, which was worked out with Deputy Assistant District Attorney Chester F. Dudick and Assistant District Attorney Michelle A. Hardik.
Prosecutors at that time withdrew a charge of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, which carries a mandatory sentence of three years in prison.
In addition to incarceration, Gelb ordered the following:
• A $2,500 fine and 12-month license suspension, to be followed by a driver training course.
• Gorbea-Lespier must pay $218 to state police, $750 to the county District Attorney’s Office and $1,920 to the coroner’s office.
• He also must perform 15 hours of community service and is to have no contact with Paisley or any members of Bahrey’s family.
Fannick, speaking on his client’s behalf, said that Gorbea-Lespier is a “family man, a loving father, a person who has accepted responsibility for this tragedy.”
Prior to sentencing, when Gorbea-Lespier entered the courthouse a free man in a short-sleeved white dress shirt and tie, he could be seen trembling as he huddled with family members outside the courtroom, as they hugged and comforted him before the proceeding began.
“He is truly remorseful,” Fannick said.