Drunk driver gets 30 years in teen's death

June 7, 2010 3:13:45 PM PDT
Monday was filled with tears and hugs for the Lalime family. A year and a half ago, 13-year-old Nicole, known as Lilly to her friends, was hit by a drunk driver, seconds after stepping off a school bus. As her family stood feet away from the man responsible for taking her life, they also forgave him. Moments after John Winnie walked into the court room, he was face to face with the mother of the little girl he ran over while driving drunk.

Valoree Lalime said, "Our lives have changed forever, because of our loss of Nicole. When she was home we spent all of our free time together."

An artist and writer, Lilly's pictures and writings stopped December 16, 2008 about 3pm. As the Bleyl Junior High School eighth grader stepped off her school bus, John Winnie, driving drunk and speeding, smashed into her bus and then her, just feet from her home.

"It is hard to see a school bus without crying," Valoree said. "When I see or hear an ambulance, I get anxious and tearful, sometimes even scared."

Lilly's older sister Michelle Mahmud says explaining to her son why his Aunt Lilly no longer visits has been tough.

She said, "The part that hurts me the most is that my son, that he really does think that my sister is mad at him because she won't come back to see him."

Winnie, 30 years old at the time, was caught four miles away after crashing into a homeowner's yard. Bloodied from the accident he showed little remorse during his arrest. But on Monday wearing an orange jumpsuit, the judge ordered him to turn and face the friends and family who crowded the courtroom.

Winnie pleaded guilty to failure to stop and render assistance and intoxication manslaughter. Lilly's death prompted State Senator Dan Patrick, present for the sentencing, to author Senate Bill 261, dubbed the Lilly Act.

"If you're involved in a drunk driving accident, where someone is sent to the hospital or if you have a prior conviction with a child in the car, you will automatically have your blood drawn," Patrick explained.

Amidst the tears and hugs in and outside the court room, the Lalime family says they have no choice but to forgive Winnie.

Valoree said, "Nicole would be very, very upset if we didn't forgive him."

The Lalime family still plans on heading up to Austin to work on more legislation involving driving while intoxicated.

Winnie was sentenced to a total of 30 years and as part of his sentence he must maintain a picture of Lilly in his jail cell.


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