GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — A Marshall County man found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and assault third stemming from a July 2013 crash that left four teens dead and multiple others injured is sentenced to six years in county jail.
Family members and friends of the victims were present in a packed courtroom Tuesday morning in Adrian Renteria's sentencing hearing.
At the beginning of the hearing, District Attorney Steve Marshall cited violations against Renteria since he was released on bond, leading to a bond revocation. Marshall argued Renteria’s conduct since out on bond, and his failure to conform to a decorum society expects.
Defense attorney Michael Stevens said the traffic citations Renteria encountered while out on bond are minor infractions. The judge agreed, and excluded them from the sentencing decision.
Renteria is accused in a July 2013 two-vehicle crash that left four teens dead and several others seriously injured. The crash involved a group of 13 young people, many of whom were friends or acquaintances. The crash happened on U.S. Highway 431 as the group was headed in two vehicles to Honeycomb, a popular swimming destination near Guntersville.
Nineteen-year-old Ryan Lawson, 21-year-old Blake Keener, 13-year-old Maegan Cordell and 18-year-old Ruben Pacheco died in the crash. All four were in a truck that collided with the car Renteria was driving. Investigators say Lawson was driving the truck, Cordell was a passenger in the truck and Keener and Pacheco were in truck’s bed. Previous expert testimony revealed there were calculated speeds that varied around 90 miles an hour during the crash.
Renteria was facing four counts of manslaughter and three counts of second degree aggravated assault stemming from the crash. He was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault third, which are lesser charges.
Renteria has been held in the Marshall County jail since his 2013 arrest. After his trial, Renteria was released on bond while waiting for sentencing. Only a few weeks later, he was back in the Marshall County jail for failing to appear in district court on traffic tickets. At the prosecution's request, his bond was revoked. Prosecutors say there was also a failed a drug test since Renteria’s release.
Tuesday morning, Ryan Lawson’s mother stood before the court and tearfully read a statement. “It’s hard to put in words the devastation my husband and I faced since the loss of our son,” she said, “Ryan was our only child. We lost our future. He was the pride and joy of our lives. We will never experience the joys of grandchildren.”
Monica Parker, Ruben Pacheco's mother, spoke next. "I am here for one reason, because my son is dead and can't speak for himself," she said, asking the judge to sentence Renteria to the maximum amount of time the State would allow, saying Renteria clearly hasn't changed his ways.
"I am sure when he left my house at 1:50 p.m., he wasn't thinking that his destiny would be sealed by someone else. This was no accident. It was reckless, foolish behavior that took my son Ruben. Mr. Renteria had no right to steal my son's destiny from him and from his family," Parker said.
Cheryl Cordell, Maegan's mother, spoke next. "Our life as we knew it ended that day, and a horrible nightmare began, one that would never end. I have written and written, and tried to write this letter, trying to put into words what we lost that day. Maegan didn't even have a chance to begin her life. When we got the phone call, we were told there was an accident and we needed to come to the DOT facility. We called Maegan's phone over and over, not thinking at all what we would find when we got there. We pulled up on the accident, and saw the truck burned beyond recognition, and a body beside it covered. We kept asking over and over where our baby was at."
"I didn't think for one second that it could be Maegan," Cordell said.
Renteria went to the witness stand to address the families of the victims. "First, I would like to say I am sorry. I know I can never put myself in your position, and can never know how you feel. These weren't my children, but they were my friends. I didn't have a mom or a dad, and these were my family. All I had was my friends, and I cherish my friends," Renteria said, "It may not play out the same way as it does ya'll, but that doesn't mean I lost something in the wreck too. To ya'll it may not be the same, but I still have to deal with it and I take credit for my actions."
"I've made mistakes in my life. I grew up in rough neighborhoods and I still managed to get away from that. My life isn't over yet. I think that I still have something to give to society in some way. I understand that I don't show my actions as much as other people do but that doesn't mean that I don't have feelings for the situation or don't care. I do care. If I could take their place so ya'll could have your families back, I would. I want to let ya'll know I am sorry, and I just hope that one day ya'll will look at me without hate. I still have a chance to be something and provide something positive for my environment," Renteria told the families and the court.
Both attorneys spoke to Judge Tim Riley before he made his decision.