Is it time to ban all driver use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices?
BEND, Ore. -- A La Pine driver was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in prison for a fatal crash near Bend that occurred while he was texting his girlfriend who was sitting next to him.
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Alta Brady told 29-year-old Erik Conn it was as if he were driving blindfolded last June when he drove into a 16-year-old riding a bike.
The victim, Forrest Cepeda, had been riding with a friend when he was crushed into a rock wall and died. The friend managed to jump out of the way.
Conn, the father of four young girls himself, pleaded guilty to criminal negligent homicide in a deal to avoid a manslaughter charge.
KTVZ reported that Conn apologized in court to Cepeda's family but that was not enough for them. Cepeda's family complained the sentence was too lenient for someone who was texting the person right next to him before the crash.
Conn said what he saw and heard that day continues to haunt him. "To hear skid marks on TV, it hit me like a rock and it just crushed me," he said.
The victim's family members got their own chance to speak during the emotional sentencing session.
"I do not want to be bitter, but my family and I are suffering a huge loss. We will never know what could have been or what should have been," Forrest Cepeda's mother said in court.
Cepeda's grandfather, Bill Howiler, told the court, "We as a people need to learn - by law, example, hard knocks or punishment - that breaking the law has severe consequences."
Cepeda's younger brother also spoke in court, according to the KTVZ report, bursting into tears as he read from a note. "Forrest was a shy but brave young man. I did not just lose my big bro, I lost my best friend. Forrest not only protected me, he guided me... to be the young man I am today," he said.
In addition to the prison time, Conn was sentenced to three years post-prison supervision and his driver's license was permanently suspended.