BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (FOX 9) - A drunk driver who struck and killed a Richfield High School student and badly injured his sister in a hit-and-run crash last January was sentenced to 32 months in prison on Tuesday.
Mikala Ness pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide charges. She and her legal team argued for mercy and probation. Prosecutors requested a guideline prison term, and Hennepin County District Court Judge Julie Allyn agreed.
"Had she (Ness) learned, my kid would be alive today," said an angry and emotional Marsha Fugett, mother of the two teens struck on their way home from buying candy at a Bloomington Walmart. "My son would be going to prom this year."
Donald Gayton Jr. was killed along a 494 frontage road near the family’s Bloomington home.
"Junior" was walking with his sister, Tamya Gayton, who was badly injured.
Tamya and her family were in court for sentencing with the defendant’s fate in the hands of Judge Allyn.
Fugett, still haunted by what happened that night nearly nine months ago, told FOX 9’s Paul Blume, "I am trying to pick up the pieces. I am mentally struggling. How could I let my kids go to the store?"
"My son went to that Walmart and he walked every single day to or from work. I never thought in my wildest dreams my son would not come home," Fugett added through heavy tears.
Junior and Tamya were walking along the shoulder of the freeway frontage roads to grab their snacks at Walmart when the two were violently struck by Ness, who witnesses claimed was speeding through the area.
Ness, under the influence after having several drinks that night, never stopped until crashing near the Mall of America.
Prosecutors claimed in court, that her blood alcohol level was .201, more than twice the legal limit to get behind the wheel.
Tamya told FOX 9, she and her brother promised to one day join the military together. She wore her Junior ROTC uniform in his honor at the courthouse.
"He used to do goofy things," said Tamya Gayton. "But I talked him into doing it in the army and, like, going to college, and we were going to do it together."
Our cameras captured Ness surrounded by family and security on her way into court, shielding her face. The 28-year-old, a mom to a 2-year-old child, emotionally apologized and told the victim’s family she prays for them every day. Ness insisted, she blacked out and had no memory of the crash.
Her legal team pleaded for mercy and probation. But Judge Allyn found a prison sentence, at the low end of state guidelines was appropriate given the teen’s death.
"I didn't care for the apology," Tamya Gayton said after the hearing. "Her apology was fake as it could be. I can hear it in her voice. I could hear the tears from her face that she was fake and that she was putting on in front of the judge, so she can have a lighter sentence. I do not accept your apology."
Ness was ultimately handcuffed in front of a large group of her own supporters in the sixth-floor courtroom. She now heads off to prison to begin serving her sentence. Ness will have to do nearly two years behind bars, the rest on supervised release.
As for the victim’s family, they have since moved out of state explaining they were too traumatized to continue living so close to the crash scene.