MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was an emotional day in court Wednesday as the family members of three victims of a horrific crash spoke directly to the 18-year-old man responsible for their deaths.
Kenneth Carpentier, 64, his wife Sheryl, 65, and 48-year-old Kim Gunderson were in the pickup truck that was hit by a stolen SUV driven by Dayquan Hodge in the early morning of September 23, 2018. The three died instantly. Four teens in the SUV with Hodge were seriously injured.
Hodge pleaded guilty in April to three counts of criminal vehicular homicide. He was sentenced in court Wednesday morning, where he listened as family members spoke of the pain associated with their losses.
“The actions of one person not only took my mother from me, but also man I considered my father and a very dear friend,” said Britni Christenson, Sheryl Carpentier’s daughter. “There are nights I don’t sleep, my mind races with thoughts of them, hearing them laugh, remembering things that we did together and the things that we had planned to do that will now never have a chance to do.”
With tears running down their faces, family members spoke about the heartbreak of having their loved ones ripped from their lives.
“How could they be here one minute and gone the next. Every day I miss them so much that it physically hurts,” Lindsey Carpentier said. “One of the hardest things is that I know that they were doing nothing wrong. They were simply leaving a neighborhood reunion and heading home.”
The courtroom was packed with family and friends of the victims. You could hear them crying in the background as close relatives spoke of the void left in their lives because of the actions of one person.
“Every day I wake up and must remind myself that this is my reality. Every day I must relive the heartbreak of this tragedy. It is impossible to try and explain the constant heartbreak and emptiness I feel every single day without them,” Christenson said.
Statements from the victim’s family brought Hodge to tears.
“It would be an honorable thing for him to make better choices from this day forward, to understand the value of life and that all people have someone that loves them dearly, so do everything in your power to make the choices to protect everyone in your path,” said Christine Groenke, a cousin of one of the victims.
Before he was sentenced, Hodge spoke to the family.
“I want to say I am very sorry and I wish I can take back what I did,” Hodge said. “I never meant for any of this to happen. I never in my 18 years of life thought my actions could lead to the death of three people, and for that I am sorry.”
Judge Jamie Anderson sentenced Hodge to 32-and-a-half years in prison.
“Time will heal some of this wound, but we will never truly be whole again,” Groenke said.
Family members say they are working towards peace and resolution, knowing nothing can change the events that claimed the lives of their loved ones.