A Colfax County District Court judge told the driver in a June 2016 crash that killed a 15-year-old Schuyler girl that his words of apology and sorrow rang hollow before sentencing the man to prison for manslaughter.

Judge Mary C. Gilbride sentenced 23-year-old Angel Lopez to 12 to 20 years for the Class 2A felony during last week's hearing.

“Your apology, thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Gilbride told the defendant while making eye contact with about 10 family members of Isabella Brandt, a passenger in the 2005 Honda Accord driven by Lopez that slammed into a tree along West Sixth Street in Schuyler around 11 p.m. on June 15, 2016.

Brandt was pronounced dead shortly after the crash and a 15-year-old boy who was also inside the Honda required 14 staples to close a gash on his head.

“Nothing can bring back your loved one,” Gilbride told the family members in the courtroom gallery. “It’s so tragic.”

The judge gave Lopez, who pleaded no contest to the charge, credit for 209 days already served in the Platte County Detention Facility while awaiting the outcome of the 18-month-old case.

In exchange for Lopez’s plea, the prosecution dismissed charges of driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury, second-offense DUI, second-offense reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle during revocation.

During last week's 30-minute sentencing hearing, Special Prosecutor Edward Vierk of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office described the late-spring night that ended with Lopez's vehicle jumping a curb and going airborne before crashing into a tree.

“There was no reason for Mr. Lopez to be driving that night,” Vierk told the judge. “Isabella never got to see her 16th birthday. All her dreams were cut short by Mr. Lopez.”

According to court documents, Lopez and the teens were parked in the picnic area near the Oak Ballroom when a Schuyler Police officer attempted to make contact to notify them of the park curfew.

The vehicle drove away, and the officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop, which led to a brief pursuit before the officer ended the chase. The crash happened minutes later.

An affidavit supporting his arrest says Lopez told an emergency room nurse at the Schuyler hospital he had “like 10 beers” that night. Officers also found a half-empty bottle of tequila inside his vehicle, court documents state.

Lopez was arrested in Schuyler the week before the fatal accident for DUI, driving during revocation and procuring alcohol to a minor following a traffic stop that involved the same teenage boy injured in the crash.

Three months earlier, the Schuyler man was convicted of DUI in Platte County and had his license revoked for one year.

He also has previous convictions in Nebraska for reckless driving in 2014, driving under suspension twice in 2013 and driving under revocation in 2014 and May 2016, according to court documents.



Jim Osborn is a news reporter at The Columbus Telegram.

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