TAMPA — A driver whose intoxication a judge described as "close to comatose" was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for killing a 23-year-old newlywed while driving drunk on Oct. 30, 2010.
The sentencing for Ingram Ferguson, a 45-year-old father of two, was a wrenching ordeal for families of both the defendant and his victim.
Ferguson's mother and sister pleaded with the victim's widower for forgiveness. The widower had refused to read a letter of apology written by Ferguson.
The victim was Yo Sandi Linares-Ortiz, who was to celebrate her first wedding anniversary with husband David Linares the next month.
He had given her his Dodge Ram truck to drive that night because it was big and safe.
She was broadsided by Ferguson's Ford F-250 pickup when he ran the red light at Nebraska and Hillsborough avenues. It was 4 in the morning.
Tampa police found full beer cans and an empty vodka bottle littering the crash scene. Ferguson, who had a minor head injury, had to be restrained for paramedics to draw a blood sample.
After tests later put his blood alcohol at 0.296 percent — three times the level at which the state presumes impairment — police couldn't find him at home. He turned himself in 13 days later.
His lawyer, Warren Dawson, described him Thursday as "a peaceful, meek, humble, Christian man" who made a tragic error in judgment.
Ferguson previously had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident and fleeing police, but about 12 years had passed since then. He was married with two daughters, ages 19 and 2.
Before sentencing, he expressed remorse but testified that he remembered drinking only two beers at a party that night. He recalled being awakened by someone at the party, then leaving.
Prosecutor Barbara Coleman said his drunkenness was so egregious he deserved a 15-year maximum sentence for DUI manslaughter.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet said DUI manslaughter cases are always senseless and never easy.
"I'm waiting for someone to say, 'This is what happened; I admit it,' " the judge told Ferguson. "Mr. Linares deserves that. But we're not getting that."
Besides the 10-year prison term, Sleet sentenced Ferguson to five years probation. He also permanently revoked Ferguson's driver's license.