Vehicular homicide suspect gets 15 years behind bars; judge suspends 11 years | KOB 4

Vehicular homicide suspect gets 15 years behind bars; judge suspends 11 years

Erica Zucco
June 18, 2018 06:38 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Albuquerque woman accused of vehicular homicide was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday, but will only serve four after a judge suspended the other 11.


Cynthia Silva was also sentenced to five years of supervised release after pleading no contest to the charges. Police say she was under the influence of drugs when she rear-ended and killed Shirley Van Why in 2016.

Ronald Van Why, Shirley's husband, said he will never forget driving to work and getting stuck in traffic because of a crash ahead. As he drove by, he recognized the classic car involved and knew the woman killed on impact was his love of 36 years.

“I felt so hopeless,” Ronald Van Why said in a victim impact statement to Judge Alisa Hart Monday. “I just wanted to save her, hold her, give her a breath of air to keep her alive – something. But I couldn't. I felt so guilty I couldn't save her. I wanted to be her hero, but I couldn't.”

Police say Silva was under the influence of methamphetamine when she hit Van Why. In court Monday, Silva’s attorneys argued she in fact wasn’t, but she still pled no contest knowing she could get up to six years in prison.

Silva listened as Shirley’s husband, son, grandson, niece, daughter-in-law and sisters shared their grief in front of Hart.

Then, she apologized.

“For me, the consequences of this incident are a lifetime sentence and life-changing,” Silva said. “It's heavy on my heart and mind daily, and it does not go unnoticed.”

Hart sentenced Silva to four years behind bars – five under supervised release – first giving her time to hug and say goodbye to her two teenage children. Van Why’s family said they could sympathize with the children losing time with their mom, but added prison time will teach a lesson, as well as honor what they’re losing.

“That Shirley's life was worth something,” said Shirley Van Why’s sister, Renee Atkerson. “We really need to focus on getting people who drive under the influence off of the roads, and we needed to set a good example for her.”

Van Why’s family said they’re trying to strengthen vehicular homicide and driving under the influence laws in Shirley’s memory.

Silva said she’s focusing on her sobriety, serving the community and sharing her story so others don’t make similar mistakes.



Erica Zucco

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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