MIAMI (WSVN) - A woman and the family she forever changed embraced each other before a judge agreed to a plea deal she signed.
Clarissa Vargas pleaded guilty for the July 2014 accident that took the life of 42-year-old Norman Mello. Vargas, then 22 years old, was driving on the wrong side of the road when she slammed into Mello, who was on his motorcycle on his way to meet friends.
Vargas had a blood alcohol level of .189, more than double the limit, hours after the crash, when she was treated for serious injuries.
Despite Mello’s family’s grief, they understood that Vargas was also changed by the accident. “I know what her life was like before, and I see what her life is like now, and she is going to be forever knowing of this night,” said Scott Mello, Norman’s brother in tears. “I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. My brother was a recovering alcoholic. We too could be standing where Clarissa is standing but for the grace of God or luck we didn’t injure or kill anybody.”
The possibility of a different reality influenced the family to show remorse. Vargas pleaded guilty to two charges, including DUI manslaughter. That can alone carry a 15 year prison sentence, but she will only spend two years behind bars.
Tears filled the courtroom, as she embraced Mello’s family, and then her own. Whispers of “I’m sorry” could be heard as the families shared a moment before Vargas was lead out in cuffs.
As part of the deal, Vargas will work with Mello’s brother. The two will share their stories publicly for Mothers Against Drunk Diving. “No amount of jail time is going to bring back my brother, but her working with the community going forward will serve some purpose greater than him… we hope,” Mello’s brother said.
Vargas will be on house arrest for two years following her release after from prison. She will also face other restrictions.
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