A four-time DUI offender and Gilroy man found guilty of murder by a jury in May for a 2009 DUI crash that instantly killed a 6-year-old boy in San Jose was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Friday morning.
Gary Westover, 40, became teary eyed before the judge and the victim’s family as he expressed his remorse for killing Isaac Young of San Jose, said Angela Bernhard, deputy district attorney who prosecuted Westover.
But as remorseful as he appeared, even as the judge gave him the maximum sentencing for his charges, Westover stuck to his guns about one thing: He believes he did not murder Isaac, that the boy’s death could be chalked up to one “terrible accident.”
With good behavior, Westover will spend a minimum of 20 years in prison for his 25-year sentence. When he has finished his sentence, his parole board can choose to release him or deny his parole.
Bernhard said Westover submitted a letter to the court pleading the judge to give him a light sentencing, a letter in which Bernhard ultimately used as evidence against him Friday.
“I should have never been drinking on a Tuesday night knowing I had to be in Sacramento at 6:30 a.m. the next day,” Berhnard read from Westover’s letter.
Bernhard said that this pointed to the fact that Westover did not understand the fullness of his actions.
“It wasn’t that he shouldn’t have drank because he had to be in Sacramento the next day, it was that he shouldn’t have drank before he had to drive,” she said.
Bernhard believed if Westover were not locked up, based on his prior behavior (Westover had three prior DUIs , at least one of which included a car cash) and his statements in court, he would continue to drink and drive, posing a threat to the public.
Westover dodged a murder conviction from a deadlocked jury two years ago for the crash that killed Isaac, but in 2011, prosecutors re-opened the case, citing that Westover’s prior drunk car crashes made him all too familiar with the risk he took by driving drunk the night of the crash.
On Feb. 3, 2009, Westover drank at least three 24-ounce beers at his cousin’s house, before hopping behind the wheel to go home. The Young family was driving home from an evening church gathering when Westover ran a red light on Quimby Road in San Jose, and broadsided the Young’s minivan.
Isaac died instantly. His mother suffered from severe injuries, and his father and older brother suffered moderate injuries.
An hour after the crash, Westover’s blood alcohol level still came in at 0.11, over the .08 limit, Bernhard said.
Isaac’s parents, aunt and grandmother were present for Westover’s sentencing. His parents told prosecutors they forgave Westover, but thought he needed to be held accountable for his actions.
No family members were present for Westover, Bernhard said.