Two months after pleading guilty to 58 counts and accepting responsibility for the December 1st, 2012 Northway crash that claimed the lives of Deanna Rivers and Christopher Stewart, 23-year-old Dennis Drue formally received his sentence inside an emotionally charged Saratoga County courtroom.
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. -- "Thank you to the 518 community and beyond for loving and supporting us as much as you have. Your support has meant so much to all of us," crash survivor Bailey Wind said.
Gratitude. One of the countless emotions on display Thursday at the Saratoga County Courthouse, where Dennis Drue, 23, received a five to 15 year prison sentence tied to his role in a December 2012 crash that claimed the lives of teens Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers and seriously injured friends Bailey Wind and Matthew Hardy.
"I was there. I don't wish it on anybody," said Brian Rivers, father of Deanna Rivers.
"Unless you've been a crime victim, you have no idea what we've been through on top of our grief and recovery," said Dawn Wind, Bailey Wind's mother.
Entering the courtroom, Drue and his attorney remained quiet.
In late September, days before his trial was set to begin, he unexpectedly pleaded guilty to all 58 counts and admitted to getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol and marijuana after leaving an Albany restaurant.
"In lay man's terms, he was both high and drunk when he killed and injured these victims," said Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy.
Shock, outrage and heartache were just three of the many more emotions that permeated throughout courtroom during the 90 minute sentencing.
Wind looked Drue right in the eye and said "I hate you."
Brian Rivers, Deanna's father, said he has no doubt Drue will kill again when released from prison.
"We feel that someone who takes two lives by committing this type of reckless crime should receive more than five to 15 years in prison," Brian Rivers said.
Anger over the sentencing, which was agreed upon by the judge and Drue's attorney in September, was shared by both prosecutors and the victims' families.
When given the chance to speak, Drue himself said "I'm beyond sorry. I never meant to be the enemy. I take full responsibility."
"Whatever the defendant wants to believe or think, it's really of no consequence to us," Murphy said.
Speaking last inside the courtroom, it was the parents and older brother of Christopher Stewart who changed the tone. Regina Stewart wished Drue a great future and told him "I'm not mad at you, I have a heavy heart." Later she thanked the community for their support.
"I was fortunate enough to give birth to two sons, but I've taken on an entire community of sons and daughters," Regina Stewart said.
One of those newfound daughters is surely Wind, her late son's girlfriend, who summed up her own remarks with a plea for anyone touched by her story.
"Before you have that first drink, please have a plan of how you're going to get home. Please honor Chris Stewart's and Deanna Rivers' memories by always being kind and considerate to everyone. Number 69 and number 19 will live in our hearts forever, thank you," Bailey Wind said.