LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - A man accused of killing a 6-year-old girl in a DUI crash on New Year's Day in 2012 will spend 10 years in prison and pay $15,000 in fines.
Billy Hutto, Jr., 28, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to felony driving under the influence causing death and felony driving under the influence causing great bodily injury inside a Lexington County courtroom packed with law enforcement, and friends and family of Emma Longstreet.
Prosecutors said Hutto was traveling between 57 and 60 miles per hour when he ran a red light and slammed into a minivan carrying six members of the Longstreet family at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Old Cherokee Road. The speed limit there is 35 mph. There were no skid marks.
Prosecutors said Hutto's blood alcohol level was nearly 0.21 percent. The legal limit to operate a vehicle in South Carolina 0.08 percent.
Hutto's mother apologized to the Longstreets during the hearing.
"Exactly how do you say I'm sorry to a family that's lost a child? I'm sorry just isn't enough," said Mrs. Hutto. "We will never know the pain of the Longstreet's and the pains of their suffering. That is a pain no one can know unless they have been in David and Karen Longstreet's position."
The crash killed Emma and critically injured Emma's father, David Longstreet, and two her brothers.
Emotions were already running high for Karen Longstreet when she was asked to testify at the hearing, but then she delivered a powerful reenactment of the moments following the crash.
"I kept trying to get to her. I kept trying to get in there. I couldn't get in there because her seat, the left seat, was moved all the way to the middle seat and I couldn't reach in there; I couldn't touch her. I kept trying to touch her," said Karen.
And at that moment, Karen dropped to her knees in front of the packed courtroom.
"And I laid on the ground and I kept saying, 'God! Please, please, please don't take my baby! Please, God, we're just trying to go to church. Please let her live, God, you can't take my child! Please! I haven't had enough time, God! Please, she's only 6 and 6 is not enough years! Please! Give her your heartbeat, give her your breath, God, please! I know you have the power, God, please! You gave breath to Lazarus, you gave breath to Tabitha, please God, do a Lazarus and do a Tabitha! Please help my baby! Please don't take her! Please don't make me suffer because we went to church! Please don't let her die! Don't take her home, God, please! Please, please, God!'"
Karen was helped to her knees by her husband, who also testified at the hearing.
"No more book readings. No more bedtime stories. I didn't even get to hug her goodbye that day, sir. I was so busted up I couldn't even lean over to see her. I did, however, wipe the blood free flowing from her nose, her eyes, her ears, everywhere you could possibly imagine -- blood was flowing. I only got a few minutes with her, if that, I could hardly remember it, as she was stable and not gonna make it much longer in this world," said David.
Since the incident, David and Karen have turned their efforts toward the legislature and Emma's Law.
The measure targets first time convicted DUI offenders with breathalyzer results of .12 or higher. It requires them to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
If the person blows a .02 or higher, the car won't start. It also stiffens the penalties for those who try and get around the law.
If passed, the more times a person is convicted of DUI, the longer the interlock device stays on their vehicle.
Hutto met face-to-face with David Longstreet several weeks ago, promising he'd do what he could to educate others on the dangers of drinking and driving. Hutto also promised to appear before the state legislature to push for Emma's Law.
Emma's Law was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary in 2013. It will be taken up again in 2014.
Hutto must serve 85 percent of his sentence. He will get credit for the 18 months was incarcerated since the crash.