BROOKSVILLE — Denise Crawford came to court Wednesday expecting to see the man who crashed into her sister last year sent to prison. But Crawford wanted something else, too.
"You took a life from us," Crawford said, fixing her gaze on Matthew T. Horne, who stood at another lectern a few feet away. "All we want is an apology. And I hope you never, ever have to lose a child or a sister or a brother or your mom like that."
Moments before Hernando Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti sentenced Horne to 10-plus years in state prison, Horne offered that apology.
"I'm sorry for the grief I've caused your family," the 34-year-old father of two young boys said. "I made a horrible decision, and it seems like everybody else is paying for it."
Horne of Hudson was driving north on U.S. 19 in his GMC pickup about 5 a.m. on July 1, 2012, when he slammed into the back of Barbara Ward's Ford Escort in Spring Hill. The force of the impact pushed the Escort through the intersection of Spring Hill Drive, over a concrete curb and into a ditch.
Ward of Spring Hill died a week later at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. She was 65.
Samples taken after the crash put Horne's blood-alcohol level at 0.106, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. Florida law presumes impairment at a level of 0.08.
In addition to DUI manslaughter, Horne was charged with two counts of DUI with property damage. He faced a maximum of 17 years in prison if convicted at trial.
Horne pleaded no contest Wednesday as part of a deal with prosecutors. He has one prior misdemeanor conviction, and the 125-month sentence he received was at the bottom of sentencing guidelines.
A native of New York, Ward moved to Florida about three years ago to be closer to her family, her son, Ken Lugrezia of Spring Hill, told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this year. Her husband, Gary, remained in New York to work at his auto repair job awhile longer before retiring and joining her.
Ward was a die-hard New York Yankees fan who loved to play bingo, cook pasta dishes and take her granddaughters, Sasha and Ashley, shopping.
Horne has been out on bail since his arrest.
Lugrezia and Crawford watched from the gallery as the judge levied the sentence. As a bailiff clicked cuffs around Horne's wrist, Lugrezia grabbed his aunt's hand and squeezed.
A few minutes later, Lugrezia stood in the courthouse lobby, his eyes red and rimmed with tears.
"No amount of time is going to be enough when you lose someone like that," he said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.