In a Dallas Courtroom Today, Heather VanHoozer's Parents Faced the Drunk Driver Who Killed Her
The prosecutor asked Alan VanHoozer how he knew Heather.
Mark Graham Debra and Alan VanHoozer lost their daughter to a drunken-driving accident.
"I'm Heather's father," Alan said, his voice struggling to finish the sentence. Not long after, he broke down and cried.
Heather VanHoozer was 24 when she was killed by a drunk driver almost a year ago. She was supposed to start nursing school at Texas Woman's University. She died on her way to the market, in a car driven by her boyfriend, Sean Bass, a radio personality at KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket.
As Bass drove his car down West Centerville Road, he saw an out-of-control Ford Expedition speed over the median. The driver, Osvaldo Cerda, T-boned Bass' car.
Courtesy of Debra and Alan VanHoozer Heather VanHoozer
When the Observer profiled Heather and her family in a cover story this January, her parents were still struggling to cope. Today, her family faced Cerda for the first time.
He was lead into the courtroom at 10:30, dressed in a gray jumpsuit. "I plead guilty," he said softly, looking down. He waved his right to a jury trial and instead is undergoing a one-day trial by judge.
In Alan's emotional testimony, he recounted getting a call from his wife, Debra. Something in her voice didn't sound right, he said. She told him that Sean and Heather were in a car wreck, and Heather had been transported to Baylor Hospital.
At the hospital, Alan, Debra and Bass waited for word from the doctors. "I said a couple prayers and asked the Lord to watch over Heather," Alan said. Doctors would later walk out and say there was nothing they could do.
The last time Alan saw Heather, she was laying on a hospital gurney. "I didn't want to see her that way but I had to see her that way," Alan recalled. "They hadn't cleaned her up yet. She had blood coming out of her mouth, her nose and her eye. That's the last image I remember of my daughter."
After Alan's testimony, Cerda's attorney had no objections: "I want to express my deepest condolences, I'm a father too."
A witness to the wreck, Kenneth Golsby, chased after Cerda as he tried to run away. Golsby testified this morning that Cerda had stopped briefly to see what he'd done. "Is she OK?" Cerda asked, according to Golsby's account. Then he took off.
Judge Dominique Collins is expected to issue a sentence for Cerda by the end of today. The most he can receive under a conviction of intoxication manslaughter is 20 years behind bars. But because Cerda isn't a U.S. citizen, his attorney said he would likely be deported.