A California woman who killed three teens in a fiery 2018 crash after driving drunk — at more than three times the legal limit — was sentenced to at least 51 years in prison Thursday.
Bani Duarte, 29, was emotional as she read a statement to the families of her teenage victims Brooke Hawley, Dylan Mack and Albert “AJ” Rossi, at a sentencing hearing Thursday, according to ABC7, the Los Angeles Times and Las Vegas Review Journal.
“I understand you hate me, wish I was dead,” Duarte told the families. “You want me to suffer. I just want to say that I’m truly sorry and maybe one day you will forgive me. What I’m saying is coming from my heart.”
In October, Duarte was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury for the deaths of the local high schoolers.
On Thursday, an Orange County Superior Court judge sentenced her to at least 51 years in prison.
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Before the sentencing, the court also heard from the victims’ families.
“Brooke has been dead for 700 days today. I’ve missed my daughter 700 days,” Hawley’s father, Aaron Hawley, said. “I hate you so much for what you did to my children, to my family.”
On March 29, 2018, shortly after 1 a.m., Duarte was drunkenly driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. She had been out drinking and was going 80 m.p.h. when she approached an intersection in Huntington Beach and slammed into the back of a Toyota Corolla waiting for the green light.
Three of the four passengers inside the Toyota, all students at Las Vegas’s Centennial High School, were killed in the crash, which was engulfed in flames. On the night of the crash, Duarte’s blood alcohol level was 0.28 percent— more than three times the legal limit.
Though the trial is over, the victims’ families told the court their pain will never end.
“I am a Marine Vietnam combat veteran who fought for this country,” A.J.’s father, Albert Rossi Sr., said at the hearing. “Vietnam was a living hell, but compared to this, it was a walk in the park.”