Drunk Driver Sentenced; Family Remembers

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Some of the people who packed into the 272nd District Court in Brazos County were in the van hit by Oscar Rodriguez's truck a year-and-a-half ago. Others were in other vehicles along Highway 21. And some weren't there at all. But you can count all of them as victims. They lost Emily Santoyo.

"She had a lot of dreams, and I love her," said her sister, Jessica.

"We both wanted to be teachers," said cousin Valerie Davila. "She was always playful, always was smiling with her big smile."

"If I knew that she was going to die, I would have told her that I love her," said brother David, who broke his leg in the same accident. "And I miss her a lot."

Judge Rick Davis sentenced the man responsible for three deaths on Highway 21 in November of 2004 was sentenced Friday morning. Oscar Rodriguez pled guilty to three counts of intoxication manslaughter, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Griselda Gonzales, 25, and Elizabeth Rivas, 14, died in the crash, both of whom were from out of town. The Santoyo family is from Bryan.

The sentencing opened the floodgates for emotion that has built since that tragic day.

"When I was driving, she was sitting behind me, and she was looking at me through the mirror, and she was telling me that she loved me a lot," remembered Emily's mother, Jessica.

"These people were horribly affected by this crime, and it always benefits the community if they're willing to share their experience and their heartache," said Shane Phelps with the district attorneys office.

And that was the Santoyo family mission Friday: to share their experience. First, to share it with Rodriguez. During the impact statements following the sentencing, Rodriguez said, "I'm very sorry. It was an accident." Emily's mother, Jessica, replied, "An accident is when somebody is sober. When someone is drinking, their weapon is their vehicle."

Emily's cousin, Valerie, also spoke to Rodriguez. "I wanted to tell him what I felt inside of me because of what he did to my cousin," she said. "I hope he feels guilt in himself because he did something very harmful to our family."

And this family wants others to remember a simple message.

"If they're going to be drinking, to think about it before getting behind the wheel, because it's like a weapon," said mother Jessica.

A weapon that killed Emily Santoyo, but doesn't have to kill others.

Rodriguez's sentence is one of the largest for intoxication manslaughter in the county's history, according to Phelps. His charges were enhanced to first degree felonies because he has a previous drug charge on his record.