SANTA CRUZ — A Watsonville woman was sentenced to 11 years in state prison Tuesday for the 2016 DUI hit-and-run crash that killed Santa Cruz resident Scott Brunton.
Violeta Cervantes, 30, sat in the suspect holding area with her face hidden in her hand or the entirety of the hour-long sentencing hearing.
She has been in custody since Dec. 12, 2016 for striking and killing Brunton as he rode his bicycle home the night before on Freedom Boulevard near Scurich Lane in Watsonville.
Cervantes fled, and was arrested a short time later on Freedom Boulevard at Mariner Lane, next to Aptos High School. She has been held in lieu of $500,000 bail since then.
She did not visibly react as Brunton’s family spoke to Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann about the impact he had on their lives and on the community.
David Brunton said that his son’s death has been “devastating.”
“Our lives have changed forever,” she said.
Brunton’s mother Laura Brunton said that, on the Thanksgiving before his death, her son said he would take care of his parents “forever.”
“(Cervantes) took that away from us,” she said.
Brunton’s sister Sheryl Dasilba said she expected the sentencing hearing to bring a small measure of comfort.
“As much as I want it to be over, I know it’s never going to be over,” she said.
The courtroom was packed full of Brunton’s friends and family, must of them wearing T-shirts that read “Scotty B.”
In court, Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Alex Byers said that Cervantes was already on probation for another DUI case, and was driving in a “grossly negligent manner” the night she struck Brunton.
“She shouldn’t have been driving and she knew it,” he said.
Brunton’s fiancée Samantha Sines said the night she learned of his death was “the worst night of my life.”
“(Cervantes) caused everyone in this room the loss of a brother, a niece, a nephew, a friend and a cousin,” she said. “I hope this sentence will be equivalent to the amount of pain she caused. Everyone will have to live with this for the rest of their lives.”
Before the sentencing hearing, David Brunton said he thought the suggested 11-year sentence was too lenient.
“We’re not thinking it’s going to be enough,” he said.
Cervantes did not speak during the hearing. Her attorney, public defender Athena Reis, said Cervantes tried unsuccessfully several times to write a letter to Brunton’s family, but could not adequately convey how sorry she is.
“She knows that nothing she says can help,” Reis said. “She wishes she could go back and do it differently so that he could be here with you today.”
The hearing moved Volkmann to tears as he explained he has a 33-year-old son.
“I can’t imaging him dying,” Volkmann said.
“I hope all of you can go forward and honor his name and his memory,” he said.