Erlin Garcia-Reyes was sentenced to 41 months in prison today, the maximum penalty for felony hit and run. He pleaded guilty last month to striking Mike Wang in the Dexter bike lane and killing him just over one year ago.
Claire Allen, Wang’s widow, sent us the powerful letter she wrote to the sentencing judge:
A year ago Erlin Garcia-Reyes hit my husband, Michael Wang. Michael was thrown from his bike to the street under Garcia-Reyes’ car. In driving away from the scene Garcia-Reyes drove over my husband, crushing his chest and killing him. It may be that Mr Garcia-Reyes believes he’s made it up to us by finally confessing to his crime, a year late. But it was his decision to run away from the scene that drove his car over Michael’s chest. And so to hit and run in this case was to kill by running. And confessing doesn’t change that.
I know that Garcia-Reyes has not been arrested for this before. But once is enough.
Once was enough for me to sit in Harborview with my children and hear the weeping doctor say that my husband was dead. Once was enough for us to see his corpse, so clearly him and already, frighteningly, not him. When we got home (how did we even get home?) once was enough for my young son to ask, “So the guy that hit him just drove away? You can do that?” Once was enough for my young daughter to ask if Daddy was coming home. Once should have been enough for me to sleep without the man I’ve loved for 22 years. For me to look at the door at 4:35 every day and then remember he wouldn’t ever come home again. For me to sit at my kitchen table surrounded by bills late at night, trying to figure out how we would live without my husband’s income. For my father-in-law to come to me weeping, asking how he could go on believing in justice. For my children to mutely slam doors, cry over nothing, rage over a broken pencil, be asked by their young friends what it is like to have a dead father.
But once isn’t how often those things happen. They happen all the time. The world for us is divided now into Before and After. Michael was 44 years old. We’ll never hear Michael laugh again, never know pure happiness again.
I do not ask for our lives to be mended. I do not ask for justice, for in a just world Michael would not have been killed. But his killer can be punished. To calculate punishment, you take into account how many times the criminal has been convicted for this sort of crime. Erlin Garcia-Reyes killed my husband once, he drove his car over my husband’s chest in order to run away once. Once is too many times. And once is enough for the full punishment permissible by law.
41 months isn’t long enough for this. Not by a long shot. Guy ran over a cyclist and then drove away and hid for a year. He should have an additional year for every month he hid away.