(Editor's note: The above video is from March 1, 2018, after Rivas was arrested.)
HOUSTON — Bryan Joseph still can’t go in the master bedroom where he and his wife once slept or the nursery of their 3-month-old son.
Joseph lost both of them Feb. 28, 2018, when they were killed by a drunk driver while driving on a Gulf Freeway feeder road just before 4 a.m.
That driver, 22-year-old Veronica Rivas, was sentenced to 18 years in prison Friday for their deaths. She had earlier plead guilty to two counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Joseph was in court Friday when Rivas was sentenced.
“There’s a sense of relief that she is incarcerated and she is serving time,” he said. “Moving forward, my goal is to get the laws changed so that the penalty matches the crime.”
Sean Teare, chief of the DA’s vehicular crimes division, said he’ll never forget the morning of the wreck, “knowing that some father’s entire life was about to be over when he learned that his family had been destroyed.”
Rivas, 20 at the time of the crash, was drinking margaritas at Crescent City Connection Sports & Oyster Bar into the early morning with a friend, investigators said. When they left, Rivas was driving 90 mph in her SVU when she crashed into Shayla Joseph’s car on the feeder road near El Dorado. Both Shayla and her son, Braylan, died at the scene.
Rivas had a .21 blood alcohol level, according to investigators, nearly three times the legal limit.
The district attorney’s office also prosecuted the bartender and two men who bought Rivas her drinks that night. All three agreed to plea agreements and admitted their guilt.
“Veronica Rivas should spend every day of the next 18 years thinking about the innocent family she destroyed,” DA Kim Ogg said. “She robbed a husband of a wife and a father of a son all because she never stopped to think about the risk she was taking by drinking twice the legal limit and getting behind the wheel.”
Teare with the DA's office said he'd like to see stronger punishments for drunken driving crashes that kill people. He said they're preventable and will forever harm families and communities.
Families like Bryan Joseph, who now sleeps on an air mattress on the guest room floor in the home he shared with his wife and son.
A friend of Bryan's said the room has become his "prison cell."
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