Courts

Coral Gables man is sentenced to 20 years in 2012 drunk-driving death of a teen girl

 

Sandor Guillen was driving drunk and illegally on the U.S. 1 busway when he plowed into a minivan, killing 13-year-old Kaely Camacho.

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Her sister wailed in agony as Kaely Camacho, a 13-year-old South Miami-Dade cheerleader, lay bloodied and dying in her father’s arms after a drunken driver tore apart their minivan.

The gut-wrenching audio — captured two years ago on a 911 call — was played in court Friday, reducing Kaely’s family to sobs and setting the stage for an outpouring of grief from relatives as raw now as it was two years ago.

“We were a pair. Losing her was, and is, the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” Bree Ann Camacho, who watched her sister die that morning, told a Miami-Dade judge during a sentencing hearing for Sandor Guillen.

The horrific wreck will cost Guillen 20 years in prison, a tough term for a crash so violent that even veteran police officers were shocked. Guillen, 40, offered no words of remorse to the court.

But his family defiantly insisted Guillen, a “God-fearing” former Coral Gables physical therapy assistant, was innocent despite overwhelming evidence and the jury’s verdict.

“He is not the monster the sensationalist media and social media have portrayed him to be,” said his sister, Sofia Jennings, who ripped police and the court proceedings. “This is nothing short of a modern-day lynching.”

In March, jurors convicted Guillen of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

Prosecutors said Guillen was speeding in a Land Rover — illegally, down the U.S. 1 busway — on an April morning in 2012. He plowed into the Camacho family’s minivan as it headed down Southwest 184th Street toward U.S. 1.

The impact killed Kaely, who was riding with her father, Kirk Camacho, and her 16-year-old sister, Bree Ann. They were on their way to their mother’s house to get ready for school.

The force of the impact tore away the back half of the minivan and caused a plastic cup holder to drill a large, gaping wound into the girl’s skull, killing her.

Police initially found Guillen’s mangled Land Rover empty. But an officer found him in a nearby field. He claimed he had been mugged by unknown attackers.

His DNA was found on the airbag of the Land Rover. Blood tests showed Guillen’s blood alcohol level was .226, nearly triple the legal limit.

“When Sandor Guillen drove that Land Rover, he may as well have been shooting an AK47 into a crowd,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Laura Adams told the judge. “This wasn’t an accident. This defendant was reckless.”

And firing back at the Guillen family claims, Adams added: “The media didn’t kill Kaely.”

Friday’s sentencing was so jam-packed that overflow spectators had to be seated in the jury box. Much of the crowd wore royal blue shirts, Kaely’s favorite color, while police officers lined the courtroom to watch.

Friends of Kaely presented Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer with a petition signed by 3,000 students from three high schools urging her to impose the maximum sentence, 30 years in prison.

One by one, her friends and family spoke about how Kaely’s death — and Guillen’s seeming lack of remorse — had torn them apart. “We are the ones being sentenced to life, life without Kaely,” said her mother, Angela Camacho.

Said her father, Kirk Camacho: “On that day, due to someone’s selfishness and thoughtlessness, I couldn’t do my job. I could not take care of my daughter. I could not protect her. As any parent would know, that’s the hardest thing.”

Guillen faced up to 30 years in prison. While prosecutors asked for a 26-year prison sentence, defense lawyer Jordan Lewin insisted his client had lived an honorable life helping patients in need of physical therapy. He deserved mercy, Lewin said.

But Judge Venzer sternly recounted the evidence, including his attempt to hide after the crash instead of helping the mortally wounded teen.

“Your actions, sir, brought death to a bright-eyed, smart, vibrant 13-year-old little girl with a fantastic future ahead of her,” Venzer said.

A Miami-Dade state attorney’s spokesman, Ed Griffith, said the office respected the sentence, “but we wish he had been given more time.”

Guillen also must serve two years of house arrest, plus another seven of probation after he is released from state prison. He also must make a monetary donation to a charitable donation each year on the date of Kaely’s birthday.

Her relatives, speaking to reporters after the hearing, said they hope Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which supported their anti-DUI efforts, receives the money.

“You haven’t seen the last of us,” Bree Ann Camacho told reporters. “I’m happy with the sentence and we are going to continue to fight and spread awareness of her story as long as I live.”

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