At 73, retired nurse Louis Anderson traveled the world with the energy of a woman half her age.
On the night of April 16, 2014, Anderson had just left a beauty salon in preparation for a cruise the next day. She walked across Northwest 27th Avenue at 151st Street, waiting briefly at the median before stepping into the street.
A Ford truck plowed into her at full speed. The sound of the collision — audible on video surveillance from a nearby home — was jarring.
“The manner in which she died, left on the cold hard pavement to die all alone,” her daughter, Yolanda Nicholas, 42, tearfully told a Miami-Dade judge on Friday. “No one there to comfort her or even hold her hand.”
Her death did not go unpunished. The judge on Friday sentenced Robert Sheffield, 63, a `former Miami-Dade county garbageman, to three years in state prison for the hit-and-run crash that killed Anderson. Police caught up with Sheffield a few blocks away. He admitted to officers that he knew he hit someone but kept driving because he panicked.
Said prosecutor Annette Rasco: “He left her there on the scene like road kill.”
“I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry,” Sheffield sobbed, holding an obituary of Anderson he clipped from a newspaper and has carried with him since the crash.
He must also serve two years of “community control,” which could mean confinement to his home, plus 15 years of probation.
For Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Richard Hersch, the sentencing decision was not an easy one. Sheffield was a career county employee with no history of DUIs. That night, tests revealed, Sheffield was not drunk although he admitted he had just left a bar where he was watching a Miami Heat game.
And the accident happened just two months before the state enacted the Aaron Cohen law, which mandated a minimum four-year prison term for leaving the scene of an accident involving death. The law is named after a cyclist killed on Key Biscayne, a case in which the driver initially served only 20 months behind bars.
Anderson, a mother of two, had many supporters in court. Her son-in-law, Scott Nicholas, recalled her support when he got into a car accident that robbed him of the ability to use his arms and legs.
“She prayed for me every day,” said Nicholas, in a wheelchair, tears streaming down his cheeks.
Even a Miami-Dade assistant public defender, Tamara Gray, testified in support of Anderson, with whom she had lived for a time. Anderson and Gray worked together gathering school supplies for underprivileged children in Haiti, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
“She treated me like her third daughter,” Gray said.
Judge Hersch noted that had Sheffield stopped his truck that night, he might not have been charged with any crime. But lawmakers had put into place sentencing guidelines — in Sheffield’s case, at least 21 months behind bars for leaving a fatal crash.
“The message the Legislature is clearly putting out there is: You gotta stop when this stuff happens,” Hersch said.