Family testifies in Jacks Valley wreck
May 2, 2006
A Jacks Valley man was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in Nevada State Prison for driving under the influence of beer and marijuana and causing the death of a 42-year-old Gardnerville woman described by her daughter as “my beautiful mother.”
Michael Cordero Perez, 33, must serve a minimum of four years before he is eligible for parole on the charge of driving under the influence causing death or substantial bodily harm.
He was charged in the Dec. 20, 2005, death of Robin Moroney in a head-on collision on Jacks Valley Road.
Turning to face Moroney’s mother and friends, Perez apologized.
“I’m sorry for the pain and suffering I caused you,” he said. “I was late, I had been drinking and I was driving. I take full responsibility for what I have done.”
District Judge Dave Gamble said he “looked in vain” at Perez’s statement for some acceptance of responsibility.
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“There was no rain. There was no ‘phantom vehicle.’ You were drunk. You drove. You killed this lady,” Gamble said.
Perez’s lawyer, Tod Young, said Perez showed great remorse for his actions, going as far as dedicating a star to Moroney.
“He wanted to do something to help perpetuate her because he had taken her away,” Young said. “He wanted to do something that kept her forever.”
Prior to the sentencing, Perez’s young nephew gave a handful of tissues to the victim’s mother. Members of both families wept throughout the proceedings which took about 45 minutes.
Moroney’s mother, Beverly Eichman of Gardnerville, brought framed photos of her daughter.
“I kind of wanted everyone to know that she was a person, not just information on a piece of paper,” Eichman told Gamble.
Eichman said when she first learned of the accident, she thought it must have been her daughter’s fault.
“I thought, ‘What was she doing?’ Did she reach in her purse? Was she changing a CD, the things so many of us do. I was trying to put the blame on my own child,” she said.
She said she received a sympathy card from Perez, but longed to hear him accept responsibility for the accident.
“I got angry when he was unable to say, ‘My God. What a stupid thing to do,'” Eichman said.
Eichman, a widow, lost her other two children to Fanconi anemia, a blood disease that leads to bone marrow failure. Moroney also had the disorder, but was living a healthy life.
“She was very healthy,” Eichman said. “She was the oldest woman alive with this illness. She had a long life to enjoy before she was snuffed out.”
In statements, Perez said there was ice on the roadway, it was raining or he had to swerve to avoid a vehicle stopped in the road.
But the Nevada Highway Patrol reported the temperature was 57 degrees at the time of the 5:19 p.m. accident and the road was dry with no rain.
Witnesses who saw the accident disputed his claim of another vehicle. Two drivers said Perez crossed over into their lanes. One woman narrowly avoided the Perez vehicle and saw the collision in her rearview mirror.
According to reports, Perez drank between 3-5 16-ounce beers two hours before the accident and had marijuana in his system.
Prosecutor Derrick Lopez said he and the victim’s family were concerned over any expression of remorse.
“I believe he is sincere in his sympathy, but there is a difference between sympathy and sorrow and remorse,” Lopez said.
“His failure to recognize that he was impaired, that he put danger on the road is dangerous for the future,” Lopez said.
Gamble said despite the sentencing, the tragedy continues for the Moroney and Perez families.
“I can’t sit down with the victim’s family and Mr. Perez’s family to figure out the extent of Mr. Perez’s remorse. I have to depend on the experienced Parole and Probation department when it comes to the conclusion that his remorse is real.
“I am pretty astonished that with all the months you’ve had to think about this, I had to drag it out of you,” Gamble said to Perez.
Family friend Jami Mosbacher of Carson City read a letter written by Moroney’s daughter Breanna who was unable to attend because she had college finals.
“To the man who stands in front of the court, I grieve for your family and your mother … but make sure you remember my words for the rest of your life, knowing and remembering how deep this selfish act goes,” Breanna Moroney wrote.
“This man is guilty of murder. No matter how many ways the law can put the word. Unjustifiable and unforgettable. This was the death of my mother, my mommy, my ma-ma and my friend. Please give her justice for it is the least I know she deserves.”