Mission Moment – April 2022

“The police had him”

A mother’s heart felt story of losing her daughter to a drug impaired driver who was earlier stopped by police.

By – Kristine Villatoro

On the morning of February 19, 2019, I was rushing to get ready for work. There was snow forecasted for the next day and since I don’t drive in the snow, I wanted to get in early and prepare.  I could hear my 23 yr. old daughter Anna moving around upstairs, which was unusual that early. Normally, I would have spoken with her to see why she was up, but I was so anxious to get to work that I rushed out the door without speaking to her. We think Anna must have left home shortly after I did, which haunts me as I often wonder, what if I had gone up there and talked to her, would she still be alive today?

Around 9am my 18 yr old son Jimmy called me. He told me there were two state troopers at the door. My first reaction was to say, “oh no Jimmy, what did you do?” Which didn’t make sense because he was a good kid. I now think, why else 2 state troopers would be at my door other than a car crash. Jimmy said the words that no mother wants to hear, “Mom, Anna was in an accident and she didn’t make it.” I remember screaming and I couldn’t speak to explain to my coworkers what happened. My boss had to take the phone and speak with Jimmy, who once again had to tell what had happened to his sister. My boss drove me to my mom’s house where I had to tell her that her oldest grandchild had been killed. At that time, all we knew was that Anna had been killed in a car crash.

I remember coming home that day. The house seemed so quiet and unbearably sad. I was at a loss and didn’t know what to do. I needed to see my daughter, but the funeral home needed time. We went to get Anna’s things out of her car. I broke down after they pulled the cover off the car. I wish I hadn’t seen it. The windshield was broken, the front driver seat was smashed in almost to the back seat, and there was so much glass everywhere. After seeing the car, I was terrified to see Anna. I didn’t know what to expect. I cried when I walked in and saw her, but I think I cried in relief because other than a few slight bruises that we saw on her face, she looked she was just sleeping. But I knew she was gone. As I stood looking over my daughter lying on that cold steel table, I screamed and screamed and screamed for her to wake up. I wanted to just grab her and tell her to please wake up and held her hoping that my tears would somehow will her back to life. I am not sure if I screamed out loud or maybe it was just in my head. I wondered at the odd way her neck looked and what damaged had her body suffered. Wanting to know but really not wanting to know. Later we would learn that she had died on impact from blunt force trauma.

Later that night, we learned that the driver who hit Anna had been stopped by a police officer less than an hour before because he had been driving on a multi-use path. The driver, Mr. Steele, told the officer that he had been confused by a detour sign in a nearby construction zone. The officer performed the standard traffic stop procedures and found that he was driving without a license. He was charged for driving without a license and released with a summons. The officer instructed him to park his car and call someone to pick him up. The officer left the scene at 5:04am.

The driver then got back in his car and left. Within minutes, calls were coming in to 911 about a car driving erratically at a high rate of speed. At 5:12am the call came in to 911 about a crash. Witnesses said he passed 4 cars on a two-lane highway. After passing the 4th car, he stayed in the wrong lane, and as he rounded a curve crashed into Anna’s car head-on. She was killed instantly on impact. He survived.

The driver was later determined to be high on Methamphetamine. He was seriously injured and spent over a month and half in the hospital. He was then arrested and charged with Involuntary Manslaughter, DUI and driving without a license. A year after Anna was killed, he pled guilty to all charges and was given the maximum sentence of 20 years for killing Anna.

I am not sure what was worse, seeing her on that cold steel table, or walking out of the funeral home cradling her ashes in my arms. At the age of 23, my beautiful daughter, Anna, lost her life because someone choose to drive impaired.

The blame for this lies solely on the man who killed my daughter. But the anger and frustration are there. I feel like it could have been prevented. The police had him, but they let him go and then he killed my daughter.

I choose to focus on honoring Anna. I volunteer for MADD in Virginia as a speaker, I have a Facebook page honoring Anna and I have become a certified Forest Therapy Guide to assist people experiencing trauma, PTSD & Grief.

Editors note: “Anna’s Story” as told through her mother Kristine, is featured in MADD’s Roll Call Video Series which can be found at this link https://vimeo.com/channels/1695972/page:2.

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