Neftali P. Ramirez’s punishment for killing Erin C. Randall while driving drunk in March will return him to the Dakota County jail on the anniversary of the crash for the next five years.
On Wednesday, District Judge Christopher Lehmann sentenced Ramirez, 26, of Bloomington, to one year in the jail that will be divided into annual increments. Ramirez was immediately booked into Dakota County jail Wednesday to serve the first 120 days of his sentence and will return for five more increments each March 8 through 2020.
Ramirez pleaded guilty in July to criminal vehicular homicide for the crash that killed Randall, 34, of Richfield. His blood alcohol content was 0.26 percent — more than three times the legal limit — when he struck Randall’s car as she was stopped at a red light on Nicollet Avenue at Hwy. 13 in Burnsville.
Supporters of both Ramirez and Randall filled the courtroom during the sentencing. A half dozen of Randall’s friends and family members spoke of her — a Fulbright scholar, salsa dancer and loving aunt. As they talked, a slide show projected photos of her with them.
“How does someone take such a beautiful life and not even remember doing so?” her sister, Laura Pezan, said.
Randall was a recent past president of the Minnesota chapter of the Fulbright Association. A Le Sueur, Minn., native, she also worked for St. Paul’s Wilder Foundation as a staff researcher and for other social-justice organizations.
Clad in a suit and tie, Ramirez sat still as he looked on for most of the two-hour hearing. His attorney, David Risk, said Ramirez asked that only Randall’s loved ones give statements before he spoke. When it was his turn, Ramirez doubled over and sobbed loudly.
“The hardest part is knowing there’s nothing I can say to undo what I’ve done,” Ramirez said. “I’ve replayed that day 1,000 times in my head, thinking about how easy I could have prevented that from happening.”
Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Swank said Ramirez was driving at least 81 miles per hour when his car left the road, drove through grass and over a median before it crossed six lanes and struck Randall’s car. Both vehicles stopped nearly 40 yards away near a holding pond. The impact tore Randall’s trunk from her car and ruptured a gas tank. The roof of Ramirez’s car had to be removed to get him out.
Swank asked for the maximum sentence of four years in prison. But Lehmann expressed concern with Ramirez being released from supervision so soon. In addition to his annual jail time, Ramirez will be on probation for 10 years and must maintain his sobriety.
Lehmann also noted Pezan’s remarks that her sister would have wanted a sentence that would provide Ramirez the “most opportunity for growth.”