Christopher Masferrer turned and faced the three families whose lives he ruined.
“Those three people should not have died. I should not have gotten behind the wheel of that car. I can’t go backwards. I can’t change what I’ve done,” he said.
In April of 2014, after a night of drinking with friends, Masferrer, who was highly intoxicated, plowed into Eduardo Hernandez, 45, Caroline Agreda, 17 and Anapaula Saldana, 17. All three were killed. Hernandez had stopped on the side of the road to try and help the teens who had gotten into a fender-bender.
Thursday, Masferrer, 33, a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Afghanistan, received his punishment: 15 years in prison followed by eight years of parole and the loss of driving privileges for life. He was charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter.
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“I can tell you — I wish I had died that night,” he told the families.
The sentencing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch was a brutal ending to two-and-a-half-years of pain for the three families. Masferrer’s apology, in which he broke down several times, came after several family members read heart-wrenching statements.
Hernandez’s wife Fatima Hernandez spoke of the three children her husband loved and his dream of taking them to Cuba to see where he grew up. The accident happened only a couple of blocks from the family’s Kendall home.
“I’m forced to drive by that street every day,” she said. “The pain will never go away.”
Caroline’s sister Jackeline Gonzalez said her sister was her protector and best friend.
“Life is still a blur. I live in disbelief. It’s been two-and-a-half years, you would think it would get easier. I still stare at my phone and think I’ll receive a message from her,” she said, looking at Masferrer. “You have shattered my family. We will never be the same.”
When the sentencing concluded and the families cleared the courtroom, Masferrer, his hands cuffed behind his back made his way to his family. He hugged his parents and sister.
“I love you. I’m sorry,” he told them.
It was an early Sunday morning, dawn had not yet broken, when Masferrer took the wheel of his 2010 Kia Forte after a night of drinking at a bar with friends. Up ahead on Miller Road near Southwest 157th Avenue, Caroline and Anapaula, juniors at Sunset Senior High School, had just been in a minor accident with a 68-year-old woman driving an SUV.
Hernandez, on his way home with his dad and 8-year-old son, saw the accident and pulled over to help. Seconds later, Masferrer’s Kia came hurtling down Miller and plowed into the girls’ red Toyota at a speed estimated by police to be 70 miles per hour. The Kia then swerved into the median and struck Hernandez.
The three were killed. Masferrer was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center. Police said they found several empty cans of beer in Masferrer’s car.
Hernandez, the father of three, worked for the city of Coral Gables. He ran marathons and loved classical and soul music. The girls, family members said, were looking forward to their senior years and the prom. They were described as good friends always willing to go out of their way to help others. Several vigils were held in their honor after the accident.
Masferrer, who wore a white shirt and dark tie to his sentencing Thursday, enlisted in 2008. He was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2012. He served seven months and returned to Miami-Dade. The accident occurred eight months after he returned.
After the sentencing, Masferrer’s attorney Frank Schwartz said his client was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the accident. Masferrer told the court he had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was taking medication to control it. Schwartz said he uncovered clear signs that Masferrer was suffering from PTSD while he was still in Afghanistan, but that the military chose to ignore the symptoms.
“We all suffer because the system’s broken,” he said.