MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul man who nearly killed two teenagers after hitting them with a stolen vehicle, faced the victims’ family in court Thursday.

Last Sept. 30, Steven DJuan Ross stole a vehicle and then ran a red light at Lake Street and 17th Avenue in Minneapolis. That’s where he hit Cecilia Speranzella and her brother Jacob.

“We can’t drive through that intersection without the full weight of those days returning to us,” said parents Joe and Mitzi Speranzella.

One after another, family members told the court how the events of that September day, have changed them forever.

“This one bad decision will have more impact on our family than Mr. Ross will ever know or feel in his life,” said cousin Elizabeth Ransom.

It began when Ross stole an SUV from another driver. He then sped down 17th Avenue and through a red light where he hit Cecilia and Jacob as they were walking to an ice cream shop.

“The last thing I remember is a feeling of panic. Almost like you get before you slip on the ice,” Cecilia said.

They were hit with such force that Jacob went through a bakery window. Cecilia hit the window frame and landed on the sidewalk, unconscious. Ross kept going, hitting a police car before he crashed into a light pole and was arrested. Both Cecilia and Jacob suffered brain injuries.

“I can’t even go a day without thinking about the trauma. I see scars of broken glass down my legs and I can’t feel two of my fingers anymore,” said Cecilia. “When I run my hands through my hair I can make out the raised C-scar on the side of my head with the three fingers that still do feel and it disgusts me.”

Once victim impact statements were read, Ross himself took time to address the family.

“I’d like to truly express my gratitude that no lives were lost,” Ross said. “I can’t ever take back what I did and that fills me with deep regret because I also have a daughter and a son around Jacob’s age.”

Afterwards, Cecilia said she’s making progress in her recovery though some days are a challenge. She is going to college and is hoping to be a detective one day. She also says her family is leaning on their faith in order to forgive.

“Letting him know that people aren’t angry at him. They aren’t disappointed in him. They are rooting for him. They want him to succeed,” Cecilia said.

Ross told police he had been using drugs and alcohol before the crash.

He had pleaded guilty to three charges, and today the judged sentenced him to 69 months in prison.

John Lauritsen