After two hours of wrenching, tear-filled pleas for both maximum justice and mercy, the man convicted of murder in the drunk-driving crash that killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends was sentenced Wednesday to 51 years to life in prison.
Andrew Thomas Gallo, 23, will be eligible for parole after serving 49 years.
"You're right — I am a horrible person," Gallo told Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey before sentencing. "They had big, bright futures ahead of them. And because of me, they're gone."
Toohey gave prosecutors what they sought: consecutive sentences on three second-degree murder charges and other felonies stemming from the April 2009 crash that killed Adenhart, 22, and friends Courtney Stewart, 20, and Henry Pearson, 25. Jon Wilhite, 24, survived the crash but sustained major injuries.
On the night Adenhart pitched six scoreless innings, Gallo was out drinking with his stepbrother. Just past midnight, he barreled through a red light in Fullerton at 65 mph and rammed his minivan into a vehicle carrying the four friends.
Gallo fled on foot and was captured two miles from the scene. His blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit more than two hours after the crash.
"Not only was he driving under the influence, he was obliterated," the judge said, noting that Gallo was on probation at the time for an earlier drunk driving conviction. "Mr. Gallo, you have devastated four families — really five families with your own."
Speaking one by one, the families left no doubt of that.
"I've had to do things a father should never have to do," said a distraught Chris Stewart, whose daughter Courtney was a student at Cal State Fullerton. "Do you bury your kid or cremate her? Do you donate her organs and her eyes? To carry her casket."
He was followed by Courtney Stewart's mother, who addressed Gallo directly.
"Andrew Gallo, the night you killed my daughter you killed me," Carrie Stewart-Dixon said. "I will never be the same."
Areta Pearson said she and her son Henry, a law school student working toward becoming a sports agent, had talked about going into business together.
"Henry was my best friend," she said. "Henry touched so many and left behind a giant void that can never be filled."
The Adenhart family did not attend the trial but sent a letter to the judge that was read aloud.
"There is no justice as long as Mr. Gallo is drawing a breath," it read.
Elizabeth Wilhite told of her son Jon's near death and excruciating road to recovery — six weeks in the hospital, surgery to reconnect his skull to his spine using bone from his pelvis, months of painful rehabilitation.
"He had to learn to talk, swallow and eat. He worked so hard to get back to normal," she said. "Mr. Gallo, you put my son through hell.... I hope you enjoy your new address."
Finally, Thomas Gallo asked for lenience for his son.
"My family prays for you all the time," he told the victims' families. "We also pray that someday you'll forgive us."
Then, turning to his son, he said, "Andrew, I'm your father and I love you very much."
Gallo, who had alternated between staring into the middle distance and pinching his eyes to hold back tears, broke down sobbing.
A sheriff's deputy handed Gallo some tissues. Many in the crowd behind him looked on impassively, red-eyed and exhausted.