Victim's family concerned over potentially short sentence
May 23, 2018 10:33 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A judge will soon decide how much time a woman charged with vehicular homicide will spend in prison.
The criminal court process has felt painfully show to Renee Atkerson. Nearly two years have passed since a driver crashed into and killed her sister Shirley Van Why.
Albuquerque police believed Cynthia Silva was under the influence of a narcotic in August 2016 when she rear-ended and killed Van Why on Interstate 40 near 98th Street.
"Shirley didn't have a choice. She had to go to work," Atkerson said. "She wasn't high. She wasn't on drugs. She hadn't been drinking, but Cynthia had a choice and she made a choice that day to get into her car and drive without a license, without a registration and under the influence of meth."
According to Silva's plea agreement, she could face anywhere from six years behind bars to no time at all. Though a vehicular homicide conviction can send someone to prison for up to 15 years, there is no law in New Mexico that requires a minimum prison sentence.
Atkerson said a probation officer suggested that Silva could get 18 months in prison and spend the remainder of her time on probation instead.
"Her son, her grandkids, they got a life sentence. They have a life without Shirley," Atkerson said. "We all got a life sentence. Eighteen months is the most egregious. It is just insulting."
KOB-TV asked the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office and the New Mexico Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Department about the potentially shorter sentence, but both offices said all pre-sentencing reports are confidential.
Bernalillo County District Attorney spokesperson Michael Patrick said prosecutors are pushing for Silva to be sentenced for all six years and they will fight a proposed shorter sentence.
KOB-TV talked to Silva's family. The family would not agree to an on-camera interview, but they said they are deeply sorry for the loss of Van Why. Still, they hope Silva will get probation and not have to serve all six years in prison.
"What I'm worried about is what message that sends to our community, that you kill somebody and it is, you know, 'OK, don't do it again,'" Atkerson said. "Slap on the wrist."
Updated: May 23, 2018 10:33 PM
Created: May 23, 2018 09:24 PM
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