Family and friends of Louise Sequeira were relieved on Thursday that their 18-month ordeal through the court system was over.
The seemingly endless court process closed on Thursday when Charles Gillit, the man who hit and killed Sequeira with a car, was sentenced to 14 years in state prison.
Gillit, 27, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox with about 20 family members and friends watching. Gillit gets 543 days credit for time already served in jail.
Gillit, a Clements resident, pleaded guilty last week to vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving. He must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being considered for parole.
Sequeira, 73, was killed on Oct. 11, 2004, when her car was hit by Gillit's vehicle on Tully Road near Highway 88 in Lockeford. She was returning to her Lockeford home from Bible study at St. Joachim's Catholic Church when the fatal crash occurred.
"We're ready to move on," Lynn Reuter, Sequeira's daughter, said in the hallway outside the courtroom after Gillit was sentenced.
Reuter added that the 14-year sentence was a fair one. It was better than risking a jury trial and have one juror believe that Gillit was innocent.
"We wanted it to be a sure thing," Reuter said.
The seven people who spoke in court Thursday about how Sequeira affected their lives, said how devoted Sequeira was to God. While several friends and relatives said it is difficult to forgive Gillit for killing Sequeira while being drunk, they said that Sequeira would have quickly forgiven Gillit for his actions.
"We, as a family had no time to prepare for her being taken from us so violently," Sequeira's daughter-in-law, Karen Hoffman, told the court.
"'Hello Love' were always the first words we heard from Mom along with a hug bigger than she was."
Sequeira's son, Wayne Hoffman, who flew to California today from his home in southern Washington, was in tears as he tried to read his statement.
"We all got a kick out of the fact that when she would fly up to visit, one of her bags was packed with tri-tip roasts, linguica and Portuguese sweet bread," Wayne Hoffman said.
"Because of one senseless, moronic act, none of these things will happen again."
Gillit, wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, appeared somber as he listened to the statements. No one spoke on his behalf Thursday.
Brenda Bickford, who worked with Sequeira at Bank of Stockton for 40 years, told the court about their times together in the Native Daughters of California and the Red Hat Society. Despite being 73 years old, Sequeira was still working at Bank of Stockton at the time of her death, Bickford said.
Reading a letter from her husband, Reuter said he hoped that Gillit will spend time helping people make better choices than he did the night that Reuter's mother was killed.
Gillit was charged with murder because he pleaded guilty to drunken driving in San Joaquin County and reckless driving involving alcohol in Calaveras County before the fatal crash in 2004. He had no driver's license or insurance, but he drove away from a bar the night of the fatal crash, according to court testimony.
Gillit's blood-alcohol content was .11, more than California's .08 driving limit.
"In many ways, this is the hardest part of my job," Judge Fox said before issuing the sentence.
Because judges review so many cases on a daily basis, she said, they often become focused on names and court files and not the real people involved in the case. Fox said she was glad to hear the statements given by Sequiera's friends and relatives.
First published: Friday, April 7, 2006
This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. April 7, 2006. An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated Wayne Hoffman's relationship to Louise Sequeira.